By Deb Millman, Vice President of Development
Berks County restaurants and other hospitality businesses that experienced COVID-related expenses and losses, recently received some relief. The relief came from the COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program, also known as CHIRP.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania allocated $145 million to counties for the grant program to provide financial relief to businesses with a primary activity in NAICS Code subsector 721 (Accommodations) and 722 (Food Service and Drinking Places) per Senate Bill 109, known as Act 1 of 2021. It was signed by Gov. Wolf on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021. The grant eligibility, application requirements and program design were developed from the text of Act 1 of 2021.
Berks County received approximately $4.7 million in funding to provide grants to eligible businesses through this program. The Berks County Commissioners designated the Greater Berks Development Fund (GBDF), the Certified Economic Development Organization for Berks County, to administer the grant program. As an affiliate of the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (GRCA), GBDF received the full support of GRCA for CHIRP administration. GRCA staff was involved with the development of the guidelines, the marketing of the program and the review of the 200 applications.
With the help of Strunk Media Group, an online CHIRP application was developed to streamline the application process. The CHIRP application could be found on the funding portion of www.rebuildberks.com. The application and the supporting documents were also available in Spanish.
The first round of applications for the CHIRP grants opened on March 15, 2021 and closed with the third and final round on June 15, 2021. At this point, it is expected that the balance of Berks County’s allocation of $4.7 million will be distributed in full to eligible Berks County businesses.
To reach some of the smaller eligible applicants in Berks, and in particular Latino-owned businesses, GRCA partnered with the Berks County Latino Chamber of Commerce (BCLCC). BCLCC staff members were able to visit business locations and assist the owners in completing the online application.
Since the eligible entities for the grant had to be in hospitality industry, applications have been received from businesses ranging from small pizza shops to some of Berks County’s larger hotels. The Berks County Commissioners, GRCA President and CEO Jim Gerlach and staff, BCLCC Board members and Crystal Seitz of PA Americana have all helped to hand-deliver checks to many of the grant recipients.
The CHIRP funds have been able to provide some much-needed relief to some of the Berks County hospitality businesses.