EASTON, Pa. –
EASTON, Pa. – Northampton County Council approved grants totaling $1.15 million Thursday to 85 small businesses to help them make it through the waning stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The county has given away $3 million of its federal American Rescue Plan money so far, with another $12 million left.
County Executive Lamont McClure has said these grants will “finish the job” that started last year, when 776 small businesses received $10.7 million total to survive during state-imposed shutdowns. The total, including last year’s CARES Act grants, will be close to $26 million.
A committee of council and the administration chose the businesses to receive grants of as much as $15,000 each. The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce assisted in promoting the grants and reviewing eligibility.
“They are all first-time applicants,” Council President Lori Vargo Heffner said of the businesses approved Thursday.
Among those receiving $15,000 grants were Beer Mussels, Hellertown; Spectrum of Floors, Easton; and Mattie’s Strudel Haus in Bath.
Councilman John Cusick voted for the grants but said the county list lacked information.
“Some of these grantees are just names,” he said, listing a few whose businesses were not identified.
“They are all businesses,” Stephen Barron, director of fiscal affairs, said. “There is nobody in that list who is attached to the gig economy,” meaning all awards went to established businesses, not people working temporary or freelance jobs.
Barron said future lists will include all businesses individuals operate, such as home-repair services.
Council also heard from a half-dozen residents of the Oliver C. Border House in Nazareth, who said the management of the subsidized housing has not kept up with maintenance and has added tenants who are mentally ill and not supervised. McClure and council promised to look into their situation.
Listening in without speaking was Kyle Shultz, head of the corrections officers’ union at the county prison. Two COs joined him in the audience.
“I’m here in case anything was said” about the union, Shultz said afterward. At the last council meeting, a union representative asked that the COs receive COVID-19 hazard pay from July 1 through the end of the year, to match what some nursing shifts are paid at the Gracedale nursing home.
Shultz said the COs are dealing with short-staffing and mandatory overtime shifts.