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Blair CARES attracts applicants

Grants available for non-profits, tourism, small businesses

HOLLIDAYSBURG –More than 150 applications have been filed for grants that Blair County is making available to small businesses and tourism and non-profit agencies with COVID-19 expenses and losses, leaders said Tuesday.

In July, commissioners assigned $5 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act dollars to categories aimed at helping entities hurt financially during the coronavirus pandemic.

“I feel we’ll be able to give our initial allocations away,” County Administrator/Chief Clerk Nicole Hemminger said.

During Tuesday’s commissioners meeting, Hemminger reported that more than 90 small businesses and tourism entities filed applications before Friday’s deadline. An additional 50 non-profit organizations filed, too.

Applicants are expected to explain how their operations have been adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

“As I read through the applications, my heart goes out to each and every one of them,” Hemminger said.

The county is still taking grant applications from local governments seeking reimbursement for COVID-19 expenses. The application deadline is 4 p.m. Friday.

The county also is accepting grant applications from entities interested in expanding broadband internet access, especially in unserved and underserved areas. While no specific deadline is listed on the county’s website for submission for broadband expansion grants, applicants have been advised that their proposed project or projects must be finished and operational by Dec. 31.

Businesses, tourism and non-profit agencies who met Friday’s application deadline should have received a notice from the county, Hemminger said. They shouldn’t, however, expect an immediate answer.

“This is not something you’re going to know overnight,” Hemminger said.

Some applicants were permitted to complete their application by submitting additional information to the commissioners’ office by today.

All completed grant applications, Hemminger said, will be forwarded to Susquehanna Accounting Services of Harrisburg, the consulting company the commissioners hired to manage the work associated with the grant and to make sure the county is compliant with all governmental rules.

At a previous meeting, Commissioner Bruce Erb asked Susquehanna representative Corey Troutman what happens if the county approves a request for funds that is deemed ineligible. If that happens, the county will have to return that money, Troutman said.

Once the applications are turned over to Susquehanna for review, Hemminger said it might be three weeks before the company comes back with recommendations for commissioners to consider.

Commissioners also have indicated that once they have more information about the amount of financial help requested, they will be in a position to consider adjusting how they initially divided $5 million among eight spending categories and how to consider allocating the remaining $6 million. The CARES Act provided the county with about $11 million to address those harmed financially by the ongoing pandemic.

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