When the Lancaster Chamber and the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County unveiled a plan to provide grants to local small businesses hurt by COVID-19, they predicted the need would exceed the available aid.
They were right.
By the time the application period ended Friday for the first phase of the program – a $10 million allocation for small businesses with 20 or fewer employees – program officials had received requests from 1,167 small businesses.
The amount of money sought: $27.4 million, nearly triple the amount available.
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“What this round confirms is how broad and deep the need is in our county’s small business community,” said Lyle Hosler, EDC vice president.
In this initial phase of distributions under the Small Business Recovery & Sustainability Fund, part of the chamber and EDC’s Lancaster County Economic Recovery Plan, the average applicant requested $23,470, mostly for working capital, though applicants also could seek money for public-health retrofits. The maximum available per company is $35,000.
Program officials said the applicants – numbering 11% of the county’s 10,800 businesses that size --came from a broad range of economic sectors, including retail, personal services, restaurants, health care, construction and manufacturing.
Applications are being scored by seven weighted criteria, with the most important being the drop in revenue sustained this spring compared to last spring. That factor counts for 30% of the total score.
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Beginning Friday, applicants will be notified via email whether or not their request has been recommended for approval. Final approval is up to the Lancaster County commissioners, who will consider the matter at their July 1 meeting.
Next, the fund will distribute $10 million to small businesses with up to 100 employees. However, the application period for this phase has yet to be announced. That will be followed by a third phase, to distribute $5 million, but the parameters have yet to be determined.
The dollars for these grants come from the county’s $95 million share of federal CARES Act relief. The county commissioners earmarked $25 million of that for the small business program.
For more information on the grant program for small businesses or the plan's ongoing program that provides free personal protective equipment, visit recoverylancaster.com.