WARREN — A state grant program to assist small Main Street-type businesses that were negatively impacted by COVID-19 shutdowns launches today at 9 a.m., and officials say more than 60 communities in the Pennsylvania Wilds are targeted for investment.

The $225 million statewide program will provide grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to small businesses that have been economically impacted by COVID-19. It targets Main Street type businesses with 25 or fewer employees and annual gross revenue of $1M or less.

Hard-hit sectors, including retail, food and hospitality, health and wellness, personal care businesses (such as salons), and child and adult day care, are a priority under the program.

“This program is a really good fit for small tourism-related businesses in the rural Pennsylvania Wilds region,” said PA Wilds Center CEO Ta Enos. “We are strongly encouraging all small businesses in the industry who have been impacted to consider applying.”

Women-owned businesses and businesses located in communities with official Main Streets programs and other state supported designations, such as PA Wilds, will get additional consideration as a secondary priority.

“Targeted businesses located in the PA Wilds region that are applying to the grant program should make sure to choose “PA Wilds gateway” and then pick their community name from the pull down menu,” Enos said. “It will help their application score higher.”

The PA Wilds region is home to the greatest concentration of public lands in the Commonwealth, and coordinated local, state and federal investments have been made for more than a decade to grow the region as a premier outdoor recreation destination as a way to diversify local economies, create jobs, improve quality of life and inspire stewardship. Many small businesses and communities are actively involved in the effort, as are the region’s 12 county governments through a groundbreaking Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement, established in 2006.

“If your community is not on the drop down menu, don’t lose hope,” Enos said. “There are additional criteria in the grant program, such as an area’s median income levels and population decline, that favor rural applications.”

The grant program is being administered through Pennsylvania’s network of Community Development Financial Institutions, or CDFIs. Officials say every county in the state is served by two CDFIs under the program, but Enos encourages businesses from the PA Wilds that are applying to do so through the Progress Fund.

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