Somerset lands $831K in 'hospitality' support funds; area counties sorting out details

David Hurst, The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.
·3 min read

Feb. 23—SOMERSET — The area's bars, restaurants, hotels and motels will soon get a chance to apply for another round of COVID-19 relief aimed at helping Pennsylvania's hard-hit hospitality industry recover from the pandemic's pains.

The Somerset County commissioners announced Tuesday that the county has been allocated $831,888 for eligible small businesses.

And while they are still ironing out details of the application and award process, board members are hopeful local businesses will be able to start applying next week.

"We've been operating under a tight time frame on this," President Commissioner Gerald Walker said Tuesday, adding that the county had approximately 24 hours to prepare its own application for the funds. "We want to make sure we can get as much information as possible out ... as soon as we can."

Somerset County is finalizing a deal with Johnstown Area Regional Industries to oversee the process of seeking and collecting applications and then distributing the funds to applicants, under the state's guidelines, the board said.

A conference call is scheduled for later in the week to get a better understanding of how the funds will be administered — including methods that interested bars, restaurants and hotels can use to apply, Walker added.

The state has indicated that grants between $5,000 and $50,000 may be awarded to eligible applicants, which must be federally recognized as a "Food and Drinking Places" establishment under the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

An eligible business, operating with 300 or fewer "equivalent" full-time employees, must also have been in operation on Feb. 15, 2020, remain in operation now, and and must have no intentions of closing for the year following the date of their application, Gov. Tom Wolf's office wrote in a release to media last week.

JARI President Linda Thomson said her office is reviewing eligibility requirements and working with commissioners in Bedford, Cambria and Somerset counties to ensure the application process for local businesses is the same for all three counties.

Cambria County is set to receive approximately $1.4 million in hospitality funds in this program, and applications will also likely roll out next week, Thomson said.

She said owners and managers of small businesses across the region have been calling her office with questions about the program.

She said she is letting them know there will be more information on the initiative soon.

"We want them to know that we'll be widely distributing the application and eligibility requirements very soon — both through online methods and across media," Thomson said. "We just want to make sure there's a clear understanding ... of what is expected."

Cambria County President Commissioner Thomas Chernisky said he and his board will likely discuss the grant program during their public meeting Thursday.

Pennsylvania is awarding $145 million to counties statewide through the hospitality Industry Recovery Grant Program.

The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development has posted program guidelines that counties must meet, which includes the submission of full reports to the state — listing each business grant awarded, the amount of each grant and the name and address of each recipient.

That reports must be returned to the state by Aug 31.