Gov. Tom Wolf visited Bristol Borough today to highlight state efforts to financially help scores of county restaurants and hotels harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wolf gathered at the Bristol Wharf this afternoon with County Commissioner Bob Harvie and other state and local officials to tout the nearly $7 million in state funding distributed recently to 196 Bucks County businesses in 36 municipalities.
The individual, need-based grants, ranging from $5,000 to $40,000 each, were provided through the COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP). Eighty-five percent were restaurant and food service companies, while the remainder are businesses offering lodging.
“Our hotels, restaurants and bars have faced so many difficult challenges over the past year and a half,” Wolf said, “and through it all, Pennsylvanians stood behind them, showing support for their favorite local eateries in incredible ways. My administration is proud to help by providing this critical financial assistance, and we are grateful to our partners who put in a tremendous effort to get these grants to businesses as quickly as possible.”
Among the Bucks County recipients was Itri Wood Fired, a Bristol Borough restaurant whose owner, Dana Pezza, said the program “has been unbelievably helpful to us in helping us retain all of our staff, which has been our top priority.”
CHIRP, she said, “has simply helped us weather the storm and survive. We are very appreciative for this program.”
Bucks County’s CHIRP distribution was administered through the county’s Department of Workforce and Economic Development through an application process that ended March 15. Distribution of the grants began in April.
The grants were a welcome addition to the millions of dollars in economic assistance distributed by the county to the business community in 2020 through the federal CARES Act.
“The impact of the pandemic on our economy was historic, and the hospitality industry took much of the hit,” Harvie said. “I was proud that we, as a county, could issue as many grants as we did in 2020, but we knew more was needed. The CHIRP grant from the state is an example of government seeing a problem and taking action on a bipartisan basis to help people affected by the problem.”
CHIRP grants were offered to for-profit businesses having a tangible worth of no more than $15 million that could document at least a 25 percent drop in 2020 revenue. Eligible entities also needed to have an NAICS classification code designating them as businesses offering lodging and/or food and drink.
The hospitality industry in Bucks County was credited with supporting more than 28,700 jobs in 2019, and with attracting 8.1 million visitors. The annual economic impact of tourism and hospitality in the county is estimated at $1.1 billion.