More than 70 Dauphin County small businesses receive over $765,000 in grants to help them survive during COVID-19 shutdown
HARRISBURG, PA (July 1, 2020) –“It was a blessing,’’ said True Legends Barbershop owner Todd Phillips said of the $10,000 grant his business received under Dauphin County Commissioners’ COVID-19 recovery grant program.
“Honestly, I would have had to close,’’ Phillips said, adding that even under the state’s “green’’ phase status, his Lower Paxton Township shop still must operate only by appointment with no walk-ins. “The county’s grant was the only help I got, and it was critical.’’
Realizing the desperate plight of many businesses, the commissioners initially borrowed $400,000 from the county’s Industrial Development Authority (IDA), allowing them to start awarding grants in early May. The IDA was reimbursed about a month later after the county received the full $853,658 from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Overall, the county awarded $10,000 and $20,000 grants to more than 70 businesses throughout the county.
“We knew many small business owners were barely hanging on, so we worked with the IDA to fast-track our ability to make grants to those in serious need,’’ said board Chairman Jeff Haste. “These loans helped businesses keep people on the payroll and ensure they could reopen after the pandemic lockdown.’’
While the Dauphin County Community Development Block Grant Program COVID Recovery Small Business Grant Program is out of funds at the moment, additional money may become available. Later this summer or fall, the county expects to receive roughly $25 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds, some of which may go toward additional business relief.
Taryn Morgan, who bought the historic Carsonville Hotel near Halifax with her husband Dennis two years ago, said the $10,000 allowed them to give most of their staff a stipend while they were closed and pay other bills.
“There are monthly bills, like insurance, that don’t stop,’’ said Taryn Morgan, who grew up about a mile away from the hotel on a family farm. “The county’s program was pretty critical.’’
Commissioner Mike Pries, who oversees the county’s Department of Community and Economic Development, said the board remains committed to doing all it can to preserve jobs and businesses. In early June, the commissioners appointed residents representing all facets of the community to the Reopen and Restore Dauphin County Task Force focused on helping the local economy recover.
“We know how difficult the pandemic has been for everyone and we are working with state, federal and local officials to aid,’’ Pries said. “Our goal is to ensure Dauphin County businesses get back on track.’’
Commissioner George P. Hartwick, III said the board is making sure all communities are receiving help and that no one is left out.
“Our small business grant program is just one way we’re making sure our residents receive the help and support they need,’’ Hartwick said. “From help with housing and food to preserving jobs, we are committed to getting everyone through this unprecedented time.’’
Irene Mizerak, co-owner of Irgo’s Tavern in Lower Paxton Township, said even with a federal Paycheck Protection Program loan, it was hard to keep going. Even now, with restaurants restricted to 50 percent seating, it is a challenge.
“It is so important for me to be able to bring back my employees, and the county grant helped me do that,’’ Mizerak said. “It helped that the county money came in early.’’
Ken Drum, who started Drum’s Excavating in Williamstown 50 years ago, said the $10,000 county grant means they can continue meeting payroll and other bills.
“Our liability and health insurance and phone bill alone in three months comes to around $14,000,’’ Drum said. Construction is still slow, and the mild winter left them without the usual plowing revenue.
“It sure made it easier,’’ Drum said of the grant. “People don’t usually reach out to the little guy, so I was impressed it was offered, and we appreciate it.’’
To learn more about grant and loan opportunities for businesses, call Dauphin County Community and Economic Development at 717-780-6250 or visit www.DauphinCounty.org and click on the Business Strong icon.