The Bedford County commissioners on Friday awarded more than $630,000 in grants to small businesses and nonprofits affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The board also announced a second round of funding opportunities to support additional businesses.
The initial round of funding was awarded to 67 small businesses and nonprofits as part of the county’s “Bedford CARES Small Business, Tourism and Nonprofit Support Grant Program.” Awards ranged from $145 up to the maximum limit of $35,000.
“Solemnly recognizing the negative impacts that COVID-19 has imposed on the local economy, the County Commissioners strongly desired to do everything possible to support our local businesses and non-profits; and encouraged all impacted business owners and non-profits to apply,” the commissioners said in a news release issued alongside the meeting on Friday. “The grants are being specifically used to offset business interruption losses of eligible small businesses and qualified non-profits.”
Of the awardees, 40 were small businesses with fewer than 100 employees, and 27 were nonprofit charities or veterans organizations.
To receive funding, businesses had to provide demonstrated losses between 2019 and 2020 as a result of the pandemic. Eligible expenses included: rent, mortgage interest, utility bills, cable, internet, phone, spoilage, personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies, unemployment compensation and costs associated with the preparations to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.
Bedford Candies was one of the companies to receive funding. It was awarded more than $31,000.
Tammy Wiley, owner of the candy company, said the funding was awarded at a key time for the business.
“We’re thrilled,” she said. “We’re definitely thankful. We’re gearing up for the holiday season, so it’s definitely something that will help us.”
Wiley said the Bedford Candies shops in Bedford and Altoona were operating at about 90% in terms of hours and staffing.
She said foot traffic is still down due to the restrictions in place to mitigate the spread of the conronavirus.
“The night life in Altoona really isn’t as it was before,” she said. “People aren’t going out to eat as much, so they’re not stopping for dessert.”
Wiley said business is building and the candy company is preparing for perhaps the business time of the year — Christmas.
“It goes on four to six weeks,” she said about the holiday season. “Valentines Day is busy for one week, Easter is busy for about two.”
Dave Heller, owner of Olde Bedford Brewing, also said he was thankful for the funding as the brewery continues to operate through the state’s restrictions on dining and alcohol sales.
“We’re privileged to be in business here in Bedford County,” he said. “It’s greatly appreciated for us.”
Olde Bedford Brewing received just over $9,000 through the grant program.
Heller said the state’s ongoing restrictions, specifically the requirement for meals to be served with alcoholic beverage sales, have clashed with the “tap room” business model for the brewery.
“The food restriction just crushed us,” he said, noting the brewery never served food in the past. It has since started selling “gourmet hot dogs” to go along with beer sales, but said the state restrictions state patrons are only supposed to sit and drink as long as they are eating.
“You can sit and drink our non-alcoholic root beer all day, but the person sitting next to them drinking beer can only stay as long as they’re eating,” Heller said.
More than a combined $37,000 went to supporting five fire departments, including Alum Bank, Breezewood, Imler, Saxton and Six Mile Run. The Chestnut Ridge Ambulance Service also received $3,100.Various other nonprofits, including the Bedford County Humane Society, the Bedford County Chamber Foundation, and the Bedford County Regional Education Foundation, received funding. In total, more than $187,000 went to 501c3 nonprofit organizations.
The commissioners launched the grant program in August, designating a minimum of $500,000 of the county’s $4.3 million in federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allocation toward the initiative.
Susquehanna Accounting and Consulting Solutions Inc. was hired to assist in the application review process. Corey Troutman, a representative from the firm, said more than 100 applicants requested funding, but some were not funded due to incomplete grant requirements.
Additional funding available
Coinciding with the awards for the first round of funding, the commissioners on Friday announced a second round of grant funding to help additional businesses.
“We decided to issue a second round of CARES funding based on the voiced needs of the small business, tourism, and nonprofit organizations in Bedford County,” the commissioners said in a statement. “We want to do everything we can. All entities who were impacted are encouraged to apply.”
Any previous applicants from the first round who were not funded due to incomplete grant requirements can submit the additional information needed to potentially qualify for the funding in round two. New applicants are also encouraged to apply.
The commissioners added that any tourist attraction, regardless of size, is eligible for funding.
Preference in the funding is given to applicants that did not receive Paycheck Protection Program or Economic Injury Disaster Loan Funds.
The second round of funding is open until 4:30 p.m. Oct. 30. Applications must be submitted in an electronic format to Makayla Bollman, director of human resources, at email@example.com.
In addition to the grant program for small businesses and nonprofits, the county has established a grant program through the CARES Act to spur broadband development. The county in August approved a $184,000 project pitched by Crowsnest Broadband of Woodbury to install transmitters at six locations in the county. The commissioners also established a grant program targeted at municipalities and government agencies.
The county also intends to use a portion of its CARES Act funding to cover coronavirus-related expenditures for the county.