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New program to help Scranton restaurants and families struggling during pandemic

Restaurants in the city are participating in a new program organized by Scranton Tomorrow, Friends of the Poor, and the University of Scranton.

SCRANTON, Pa. — After Governor Wolf ordered restaurants and bars to temporarily shut down their dine-in facilities, business owners everywhere have been doing the best they can to stay afloat.

Renato Luongo owns Abe's Deli on North Washington Avenue in Scranton. 80% of his business comes from sit-down service.

"You know when things go bad is when you have to show your true colors and you have to help everybody. We have to all come together and if we all do that, I think it's gonna pass and we'll be okay," said Luongo.

That's why Abe's Deli and several other restaurants in the city are participating in a new program organized by Scranton Tomorrow, Friends of the Poor, and the University of Scranton.

The program won't only help restaurants, but people who are struggling financially right now, as well.

It's called The Electric City Connection.

 Anyone can go online to Scranton Tomorrow's website and donate $15.That money will then be used to buy a gift card for a local restaurant. Friends of the Poor will then distribute those gift cards to low-income residents. 

"So you're supporting your businesses, your small restaurants, and helping community well-being, and especially residents who are facing economic hardship. We know that's really being exacerbated right now by this coronavirus crisis," said Julie Schumacher Cohen, assistant vice president for community engagement and government affairs at the University of Scranton.

Michael Melcher, owner of the Black Box Cafe on Wyoming Avenue, says most of his customers choose take-out rather than sit-down anyway, so he doesn't anticipate the Governor's order hurting his bottom line. He sees the program as an opportunity to provide for people who are struggling to put food on the table. 

The Friends of the Poor will begin distributing the gift cards on Monday.