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Pennsylvania eyes more aid for small businesses

Gov. Wolf says $225 million of $1.7 billion in funding from the federal government should go to restaurants and other enterprises with less than $1 million in pre-pandemic revenues.
Pennsylvania's Capitol building. / Photograph: Shutterstock
Pennsylvania's Capitol building. / Photograph: Shutterstock

Restaurants and other small businesses in Pennsylvania could qualify for aid grants of up to $50,000 under a comprehensive COVID relief plan proposed last week by Gov. Tom Wolf.

The governor has requested that $225 million in federal funding already committed to the state be channeled into an existing but depleted assistance initiative, the COVID Relief Statewide Small Business Assistance Program. The grants of $5,000 to $50,000 could be used for operating expenses or for the “technical assistance” needed for a major shift in direction, such as converting a catering hall into a takeout restaurant. The assistance would extend to such needs as retraining a staff.

Only businesses that had less than $1 million in annual revenues or 26 employees prior to the pandemic would be eligible for the grants.

Before the Small Business Assistance Program ran out of money, it provided aid to 11,000 operations in Pennsylvania. The re-up requested by the governor would help that number of enterprises again, according to an announcement from the chief executive.

The funds have already been committed to Pennsylvania by the American Rescue Plan, the huge federal aid package that was passed by Congress near the start of President Biden’s term. The landmark legislation earmarked billions of dollars that states could use to fund their COVID assistance programs. About $1.7 billion was reserved for Pennsylvania.

Wolf, a Democrat, said he intends to ask the state legislature to move quickly on his request, noting that many residents are still feeling the economic impact of the pandemic. He added that the plan has the support of his party mates in the state legislature.

But Republicans hold a majority of seats in both the Assembly and the state Senate.

Relations between local Republicans and the Democratic senator were extraordinarily rocky during the pandemic’s earliest days. Many Republican-controlled local jurisdictions refused to follow the safety protocols that Wolf imposed as emergency measures. He then refused to share pandemic relief funds with those areas, whose leaders then turned around and sued him—twice.

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