On December 10, at their last meeting of the year, Northampton County Council voted 8-0 to award $1.3 million in pandemic relief grants to 93 small businesses. Most of these awards were for $15,000, with no restrictions on how the money is spent. Altogether, Northampton County has awarded approximately $10.1 million to 766 county-owned businesses.
This money is part of $27.6 million the county received under the CARES Act, with instructions to spend by year's end. Executive Lamont McClure established and Council approved a "pandemic protection program" for small business grants; tourism; municipal and community assistance; mental health and addiction projects; nonprofit assistance; and broadband development at area schools.
The small business grants were marketed by the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and without regard to whether the business was a member. County Council approved the awards in four separate rounds in which businesses were considered on a first come,first served basis.
The Chamber was entitled to a fee for its assistance, but poured that money back into the small business grant program.
McClure felt it was important to get the money out as soon as possible. "“Small businesses are the lifeblood of our local economy” he said at one point. “They provide jobs and deliver needed services to our residents."
To qualify, a business had to be (1) located in Northampton County, (2) have fewer than 100 employees and (3) missed out on previous awards.
Council member Peg Ferraro was absent.
The latest awards coincide with a new Covid-19 mitigation measures imposed Governor Tom Wolf, which in part force local restaurants and bars to suspend indoor dining for three weeks.