Blair launches program to help with COVID-19 costs

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County has launched a grant program to help small businesses, tourism and nonprofit agencies address COVID-19 expenses and losses.

Commissioners met Wednesday to approve grant applications and related documents now available on the county’s website at www.blairco.org.

The deadline for submission is 4 p.m. Sept. 11.

“We realize how our economy has been negatively affected by COVID-19,” commissioners Chairman Bruce Erb said during Wednesday’s meeting where he encouraged applications to be submitted.

“I think we can have some really beneficial results from these dollars,” Erb said.

The county received $11 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, with decisions on distribution up to the commissioners. While commissioners have allocated $5 million of the $11 million to seven spending categories, they’ve indicated that allocations are subject to change based on requests.

On Wednesday, Erb and fellow commissioners Amy Webster and Laura Burke approved a grant application for what will be called Blair CARES Small Business, Tourism and Nonprofit Support Grant Program.

The goal of the program, they said, will be to provide immediate relief to those entities and to help them stay in business.

Blair CARES grants can be used to help cover business interruption losses, including loss of fundraising revenues for eligible nonprofits, according to a statement the county released Wednesday after the commissioners meeting. Preference will be given to the applicants that did not receive Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loan Funds, according to the statement.

Commissioners also announced Wednesday that local governmental entities will receive emails about reimbursement grants available to them for their COVID-19 related expenses. An educational meeting is being planned for Sept. 2 and the deadline for those grants will be 4 p.m.

Sept. 18, County Administrator Nicole Hemminger said.

Also during Wednesday’s meeting, commissioners approved an application to be used by applicants interested in an expansion of broadband internet service, with priority to unserved and underserved areas within Blair County. That application, along with related information, is also posted on the county’s website.

Erb, who obtained a list of broadband providers from the Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission, suggested contacting those providers about the availability of grants for efforts addressing internet access in Blair County. Southern Alleghenies previously commissioned a study that focused on internet access issues within a multi-county area that included Blair.

The county’s grant application for broadband projects requires the applicant to offer a description of the proposed project, the service area and its sustainability. In addition, the project has to be finished and operational by Dec. 30.


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