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Blair seeks $1.38M in aid

Funds to help local hotels, restaurants, bars

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County expects to receive almost $1.38 million to help local hotels, restaurants and bars address financial losses linked to COVID-19.

Commissioners on Thursday authorized submission of a grant application to the state Department of Community and Economic Development, based on Wednesday’s action by lawmakers authorizing $145 million through a COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program, referred to as CHIRP.

Gov. Tom Wolf, who announced the funding availability Wednesday, said the allocation is to be divided among the state’s 67 counties based on population.

“The commonwealth’s hospitality industry is critical to the lives and livelihoods of so many Pennsylvanians, and it’s undeniable that it has been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic,” Wolf said. “After months of calling for support for our hospitality establishments and their employees, I am pleased that the General Assembly has allocated millions of dollars to protect and preserve this industry.”

Blair County’s hotels, restaurants and bars will have the opportunity to apply for grants between $5,000 and $50,000, as set within the state’s legislation, Commissioner Bruce Erb said Thursday.

The Altoona-Blair County Economic Development Corp. will handle work involving soliciting and reviewing grant applications for the county. The state legislation, Erb said, requires counties to work with a certified economic development organization on this program.

Leaders at the ABCD Corp. said Thursday that they have started discussing the matter and expect to post an application and related information on the organization’s website — http://www.abcdcorp.org/chirp/ — before March 15.

“We are already fielding calls, but we’re telling people that we will get back to them as soon as we’re ready,” ABCD Corp. Executive Vice President Pat Miller said Thursday.

Miller also cautioned that if every applicant qualifies for a $50,000 maximum grant, then fewer than 30 Blair County businesses will be helped, based on the $1.38 million available.

“Although $1.38 million sounds like a lot, it’s really not,” Miller said.

Program guidelines offered by the governor’s office and posted on the state’s DCED website indicate that grant applicants must have been in business on Feb. 20, 2020, and have no plans to permanently cease operations within one a year of the grant application.

Priority is to be given to grant applicants who did not previously receive a government loan or grant and to applicants who closed because of the governor’s COVID-19 disaster declaration.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay

Stephens is at 814-946-7456.

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