By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
Pennsylvania has suffered its first fatality from the COVID-19 virus. But, Pa. Gov. Tom Wolf warns it is “the first death of what will become many.”
Wolf made the announcement at about 5:40 p.m. Wednesday via a livestream. Little is known about the individual except that they are from Northampton County (near Allentown).
“I bring you this news,” Wolf said, “because it underlines the seriousness of COVID-19.”
The virus, he said, is increasing at an exponential rate and the only way to slow it down is to “keep as many Pennsylvanians as possible to stay away from each other.”
He reminded residents about his order closing dine-in facilities at restaurants and asking nonessential businesses to close for at least two weeks. Wolf says he understands why some businesses have been reluctant to close “as a business owner and a father,” but says the virus will continue to spread “every day that people freely interact with one another.”
“ We need to stay home if we want to save lives,” he said.
State legislators make $61 million available to help small businesses through COVID-19 crisis
According to a release from PA. Senate Democrats, the general assembly and the governor agreed to move $40 million controlled by the Commonwealth Finance Authority along with another $21 million in available funds to a small business loan program to help businesses struggling with reprecussions from the COVID-19 outbreak.
“In the wake of the unprecedented Coronavirus pandemic, it’s important that state government is trying to respond to all manner of its impacts, and that includes providing support to our small business community,” said Senate Democratic Leader Jay Costa, Jr. “Today, the CFA took necessary and swift action to provide low interest loans to small businesses to help keep them afloat during these difficult times. I commend the leadership of Governor Wolf and the other caucuses of the General Assembly for working together so quickly to come up with a viable plan to provide this assistance.”
“There’s been major disruption to small businesses and their employees,” said House Democratic Leader Frank Dermody. “This is a bipartisan down payment to get some working capital out quickly. Much more help is needed and we’ll keep working on that.”
These funds will be used to fund working capital loans of up to $100,000 directly to small businesses (those that employ 100 or fewer persons). The PIDA board has the authority to move money from MELF to SBF for such purposes. The interest rate is currently 3 percent; however, The Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) board has the authority to adjust the interest rates.
The SBF is the most logical program to assist small businesses quickly because this is already its intended purpose. It has the structure along with the needed regional infrastructure to help small businesses immediately including partnerships with local a Certified Economic Development Organization (CEDO) in preparing and submitting an application for approval by the Authority. As these loans have a maximum amount of $100,000, they can all be approved by the staff and thus, if all requirements are met, and a complete application is submitted, each loan can be turned around rather quickly.
“I want to thank the Commonwealth Financing Authority and PIDA for moving quickly on making these loans available to our local small business owners,” said Senator Lindsey Williams. “By using the existing structure of the PIDA, we’ll be able to quickly accept and evaluate applications and get funding to where it is needed the most—working families across the Commonwealth.”