The Lead

Pa. awards $96 million in first round of COVID-19 relief grants to small businesses

By: - August 10, 2020 5:25 pm

On a crowded Zoom call Monday, state lawmakers and representatives from the 17-member Pennsylvania Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) Network revealed the recipients of the first round of COVID-19 small business assistance grants, totaling more than $96 million. 

There were nearly 50,000 applicants for the first round of grants, CDFI officials said, showing the need for assistance. Ultimately, 4,933 recipients were chosen. 

State Sen. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, confirmed that the network received more than $800 million in requests for relief. “It speaks for itself,” Hughes said, “both the success and the need.”

Sen. Jim Brewster, D-Allegheny, said he hoped the grants would give recipients “some level of sanity” following the COVID-induced shutdown. 

Brewster noted that around half of small businesses aren’t expected to reopen their doors., But he said the grants might help reduce the number of businesses that do not reopen. 

“We’ve been able to put together a package that can accomplish both of those goals,” Brewster said. 

One recipient who joined the call, Ebone, who runs a 24-hour childcare center in Philadelphia and did not share her last name, said the relief funds would help her purchase personal protective equipment for the center’s employees and children. 

In addition to purchasing PPE, Ebone said she would use the grant to purchase laptops for the center. 

 “I will be able to purchase laptops for when school begins for the school age children,” she said. 

According to Dan Betancourt, president & CEO of Community First Fund and Chair of the PA CDFI Network, 16 percent of the available grant money has gone to rural applicants with 95 percent going to retail, food service and hospitality,personal services, such as hair salons and barber shops, and health and wellness facilities.  

“We knew federal stimulus dollars did not reach many businesses across the commonwealth,” Betancourt said, adding that CDFI pledged to help the small businesses hardest hit by the pandemic. 

The table below breaks down the number of grant recipients by county.

On Monday, lawmakers and CDFI representatives announced that the second and final round of grant applications is now open. Interested businesses have until Aug. 28 to apply. 

Those who applied in the first round, but didn’t win will automatically be considered for the second round. 

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