Centre County commissioners on Tuesday announced a new grant program for local businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Applications are now open for the Small Business Grant program, which will provide a total of $3 million in grants for Centre County businesses. SEDA-COG is managing the grant program for the county and the application and guidelines are available online.
Funding for the program comes from the $31 million allocated to the county from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
Commissioner Mark Higgins said that with the return of fans at Penn State football games, Centre County will see tourism ramp up in September and businesses will be in need of additional capital to prepare.
“Based on what I’m seeing in other parts of the country that have a lot of tourism visits, say in June and July, I think it’s going to be really, really busy here in Centre County,” Higgins said. “Our small businesses, our retailers, our hospitality firms are going to be in desperate need of what’s called working capital. So Centre County Government is going to work to help them provide that… funded exclusively by American Rescue Plan dollars.”
Grants will be awarded on a first-come, first-served basis in $2,000 increments, with a maximum of $20,000. The amount of the award will be based on a business’s revenue losses in 2020 compared to 2019.
The funds can be used for any operating expenses in 2021, including, payroll, rent, mortgage, utilities, costs of goods, supplies and raw materials.
Any business with 500 or fewer full-time equivalent employees that is headquartered in Centre County or with more than half of its payroll based at its Centre County location is eligible to apply.
A business must show a 25% reduction in net receipts from 2019 to 2020 after factoring in other grants received since the start of the pandemic. For businesses that were established in 2019 or early 2020, quarterly net profit and loss statements can be used to demonstrate the losses.
Higgins said he expects the average small business to received $10,000 to $12,000, meaning approximately 300 companies will get funding. He added that the county spoke with a number of business owners who indicated, given a limited pool of money, anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000 would help them prepare for the influx of visitors.
“[It’s] kind of designed the program so you’re average small business in Centre County will receive enough working capital to buy food for football season, buy inventory for football season, hire a couple extra staff here in the next few weeks to get them trained up so that when the crowds come for football they’ll be prepared,” he said.
There is no restriction on the type of business that can apply.
In October, the commissioners awarded $5.4 million from federal CARES Act funding to more than 400 Centre County businesses. Another $1.8 million was given to local lodging, food and drink establishments through funding allocated to the county from Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program
Once the final checks for the Small Business Grant Program have been mailed, Centre County will have distributed more than $10 million in state and federal relief grants to local businesses since last fall.
“This is one of the highest county government totals in Pennsylvania both in terms of raw dollars and as a percentage of COVID grants received,” Higgins said.