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'Sustain State College' Aims to Provide Support for Residents and Businesses

by on September 02, 2020 4:48 PM

State College Borough has started a new, multifaceted initiative to provide emergency assistance to residents and businesses struggling with the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Sustain State College" launched on Wednesday with three programs: a mortgage, rent and utility payment program for residents that have lost income as a result of the pandemic; 0% interest loans for small businesses and nonprofits; and a relaxation of zoning requirements to allow more outdoor dining and commerce on privately owned parking areas and other private land.

Additional programs may be added in the future.

It's the latest local effort aiming to alleviate the impacts of COVID-19. Centre County is using its CARES Act funding to provide millions of dollars in relief grants to small businesses and nonprofits and is also administering a federally-funded rent relief program. Centre Foundation is currently in the midst of a second round of its COVID-19 ACTION Fund to assist local nonprofits 

State College's mortgage, rent and utility payment program will use federal funds to provide direct financial assistance for low-to-moderate income households.

Renters who meet qualifications and are selected for assistance can receive up to $1,200 per month for up to three consecutive months for rent and utilities, while homeowners can receive up to $2,000 per month for three consecutive months.

To be eligible, residents must meet income guidelines and live and have a lease or mortgage within the borough. They cannot have been behind on payments prior to March 1, 2020 and cannot receive subsidized housing from other sources. Most undergraduate students will not be eligible, according to the borough.

Funding is limited and applications will be completed by calling (814) 234-7165 on Monday of each week. Approximately 20 applicants will be selected each week until funds expire. 

Applicants will be required to provide a signed lease or mortgage statement, proof of a decrease in total household income because of COVID-19, a statement of rent or mortgage delinquency from a landlord or lender, and photo ID of the lease or mortgage holder.

Payments will be made directly to the mortgage lender, landlord/property manager or utility company. To receive payments, landlords waive any late fees or penalties due from the tenant, have a current rental permit and be current on borough taxes.

Small Business Loans

State College will offer microloans of up to $10,000 at 0% interest to businesses located within the borough and with 15 full-time equivalent employees or fewer. 

Loans will have a three-year term but principal payments do not begin until September 2021. 

"These loans are meant to act as bridge loans so that our small businesses can continue to function during the COVID-19 Pandemic and can be used for working capital, including rent, payroll, utilities, inventory and payable accounts," the program's website states. "The funds may also be used for renovations directly related to COVID-19 safety improvements.

"We as a community deeply value the services and experiences our small businesses provide to both locals and students and the Borough hopes to keep as many businesses afloat as possible."

Business must be a non-franchise business and may not have any additional locations outside Centre County. They must agree to follow all required federal, state and local guidelines for COVID-19 safety and prevention. And they must report on the use of the loan funds with six months of the loan being issued.

If after receiving a loan a business closes its current location and relocates outside the borough, the outstanding loan balance will be due in full at the time of closure. 

Applicants will be required to have a credit score of at least 650 and provide documentation on the extent of revenue and income losses.

"While this loan program seeks to help as many businesses as possible, we need to ensure that businesses who receive this aid are truly in need of support and were viable businesses prior to the COVID-19 pandemic," the site states. 

Priority will be given to businesses demonstrating the largest percentage revenue and income loss since Gov. Tom Wolf's emergency declaration was issued on March 6, as well as to those that did not receive Paycheck Protection Program funds.

Applications will be open until Wednesday, Sept. 30. To apply and for more details, visit www.statecollegepa.us/3172/Sustain-State-College.

Temporary Permit for Outdoor Commerce

State College will issue temporary use permits for outdoor dining and commerce, relaxing the zoning requirements for minimum parking spaces and setbacks and allowing businesses more space outside as they deal with state occupancy restrictions and safety concerns stemming from the pandemic.

The temporary permit is for use of outdoor privately-owned space, not for public rights-of-way.

Permits will be valid for one year or until the governor's emergency declaration ends, whichever is earlier. Restaurants may use the additional temporary dining and seating areas to allow seating that meets but does not exceed standard building occupancy.

Where parking areas are to be used for temporary seating, that applicant is responsible for maintaining adequate parking.

"Parking and congesting problems resulting from the temporary parking reduction may incur a violation or permit revocation," the application states.

Businesses also must ensure walkways or private sidewalks remain passable by pedestrians and complaint with all Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.

A $50 permit fee is required.

Ferguson and Harris townships adopted similar measures allowing businesses to expand outdoors earlier this summer.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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