The natural gas industry is helping small business get back on its feet in Bradford, Susquehanna and Wyoming Counties, Pennsylvania during the WuFlu!
Small business owners impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in Susquehanna, Wyoming and Bradford counties will get a third chance to apply for small business grants through a program coordinated by the Commonwealth Foundation of the Endless Mountains and aided in part by a $100,000 donation from Cabot Oil & Gas.
Overwhelming interest in the first and second rounds of grant awards quickly exhausted available funds and convinced Commonwealth Foundation grant managers to solicit additional donations. To date the Small Business Assistance Fund has helped 140 businesses in Susquehanna, Wyoming and Bradford counties with grants. Storefront shops and service oriented businesses impacted by Covid-19 comprise the focus of the $1,500 grants.
Jennifer Strickland has run Kidz Consignment, selling children and adult clothing on Public Avenue in Montrose since 2012. As her family-run business is not considered essential, she can’t have any walk-in business and is therefore largely reliant on online purchases. Strickland, a member of the Montrose Area School Board, was glad to get one of the grants, which she said will help with rent and utilities.
“We appreciate it,” she said.
Although organizers continue to seek and collect donations for the third round of grants, a firm start date hasn’t been set. The grants are aimed at those employing 20 or fewer employees.
“We hope that we will be able to find some large companies or other large donors,” said Cindy Beeman, the executive director of Interfaith of Susquehanna County, a volunteer run community support and emergency assistance organization based in Montrose. Beeman’s Interfaith helped other organizations, including Commonwealth Foundation, a charitable, philanthropic organization, with the grant program.
Beeman emphasized how local funding supported through local donations in turn directly benefits local recipients.
For local small businesses applying for state and national level grants, “you have no idea if you’re actually going to qualify or if anybody’s going to even notice you,” she said.
“In their world, we don’t really matter. But the people in our world, they do matter,” Beeman said.
Melissa Turlip of Commonwealth Charitable Management, an arm of Commonwealth Foundation which collects, holds and directs donations on behalf of the involved organizations, confirmed that the third phase of collecting funds for additional grants is underway. Commonwealth Charitable Management, she said, “welcomes donors to the program, and will provide additional assistance to small businesses as funding is received.”
“Well, it would be very nice to be qualify for the grant,” said Jodi Clary, owner of Lily Pad Florist and Gift Shop on Church Street in Montrose. “It would definitely help out paying the rent for a couple of months,” Clary said.
Clary said her business, which she runs with a one full time worker and another part timer, is down “about 40 percent.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has not only eliminated her walk in business but has also robbed her of income from providing flowers to local graduations and other traditional springtime celebrations such as Mother’s Day and Easter.
“Easter wasn’t as busy as it usually is because the churches are closed,” Clary said.
Other organizations contributing to the Small Business Assistance Fund include the Trehab community action agency, the Wyoming County Chamber of Commerce and the Progress Authority, a Towanda-based economic development organization.
Christopher Brown, Progress Authority’s vice president for community development, said he looks forward to the next time the authority can extend a helping hand to local businesses. But for now, Brown said, the available money has unfortunately run out.
“It is something that we are looking for other funding sources, so we are hoping to keep this open,” Brown said.
Together with the $100,000 from Cabot, the authority was able to fund the 140 small business grants. Brown said they would like to do it again.
“It was helpful. We wish we could have had more money to make it more meaningful but we ran out of money,” Brown said.
For more information about the grants and instructions on how to apply see the Commonwealth Foundation website www.commonwealth-foundation.org, the Foundation’s Facebook page or by calling (570) 278-3800.