WILKES-BARRE, Pa. — On the south lawn of the Luzerne County Courthouse, County Manager David Pedri announced that $11 million is on its way to help small businesses and nonprofits here.
"These funds were allocated to the county by the CARES money coming from the state and federal governments. I want to be very clear as to what these funds are to be utilized for. These funds won't be utilized for the big corporations," Pedri said.
Fermin Diaz runs a Main Street business initiative for downtown Hazleton. He says because of how hard that city was hit by COVID-19, people lost trust in businesses there, so they are struggling. He's thrilled that help is on the way.
"I almost cried, to be honest. It was emotional because you know when you live in a community, and you know the struggle of families, small business, and people, it's not just about a name of a company. It is about someone that shares with you the weekends, and they tell you how hard you're struggling," said Diaz.
Small businesses looking for help must have no more than 15 full-time employees and meet other criteria.
"We're going to be going to the places who not only know your favorite Friday pizza order. They know what sports your kids play. They know that your mother was just in the hospital, they know your name," Pedri said.
This $11 million will be split up with $8 million of the $11 million allocated for grants for small businesses, while $3 million will go to grants for nonprofits in Luzerne County.
"It can be a tough year for the nonprofits. It truly is. With unemployment being what it is, people donating where they are, small businesses trying to, certainly. Businesses have spent a lot of money on other things this year, that it's going to be hard for them to find the money to be able to support the nonprofit. So they need that extra help, almost more than anyone because we're not supporting them, they can't do their job, and we really need them to support the community," said Michelle Mikitish, Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce.
Pedri says many small businesses have told him about the struggles they have had applying for help. The county has laid out all of the criteria, and all of the documentation small businesses and nonprofits need to submit for the application on its website.
Applications can be submitted starting October 1 and will be accepted for two weeks. All applications will be reviewed by the county and its regional economic development agency, Penn's Northeast.