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Boscola Bulletin

$225 Million Grant Program for Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19

I am happy to inform you of an announcement that was made yesterday afternoon - a $225 million statewide grant program to support small businesses that were impacted by the COVID-19 public health crisis and subsequent business closure order.

The focus of this program is to provide direct support to impacted businesses throughout the Commonwealth to cover operating expenses during the shutdown and the transition to reopening.

Grant ProgramThe funding was developed in partnership with state lawmakers and allocated through the recently enacted state budget, which included $2.6 billion in federal stimulus funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, of which $225 million was earmarked for relief for small businesses.

The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) will distribute the funds to the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs), which will then administer the funding in the form of grants. The PA CDFI Network is a group of 17 PA-based community development financial institutions that primarily provide financing options for small businesses. Once the final guidelines and applications are available, the Lehigh Valley’s CDFI will be The Rising Tide Community Loan Fund and they will administer the grant program.

Eligible businesses will be able to use the grants to cover operating expenses during the shutdown and transition to re-opening, and for technical assistance including training and guidance for business owners as they stabilize and relaunch their businesses.
The funds will be available through three programs:

  • $100 million for the Main Street Business Revitalization Program for small businesses that experienced loss as a result of the governor’s March 19, 2020 order relating to the closure of all non-life-sustaining businesses and have or will incur costs to adapt to new business operations related to COVID-19;

  • $100 million for the Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Program for small businesses that experienced loss as a result of the business closure order, have or will incur costs to adapt to new business operations related to COVID-19, and in which socially and economically disadvantaged individuals own at least a 51 percent interest and also control management and daily business operations.

  • $25 million for the Loan Payment Deferment and Loss Reserve Program, which will allow the CDFIs the opportunity to offer forbearance and payment relief for existing portfolio businesses that are struggling due to the impact of COVID, as well as shore up the financial position of the CDFIs that are experiencing significant increased defaults in their existing loan portfolios.

Small businesses in the Lehigh Valley are the ones whom carried the burden the economic impacts locally of this pandemic - their recovery, and the recovery of communities across the commonwealth, is imperative and this grant program is a tremendous first step in being able to provide economic opportunities to those affected by COVID-19 and assist in our local recovery.

Pennsylvania Treasury Switching to ReliaCard for Payment of PUA and PUA-related FPUC Benefits

The Pennsylvania Treasury Department and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry (L&I) continue to make enhancements and adjustments to their processing of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) and PUA-related Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) benefits payments in order to minimize the negative impact of recent, multistate fraud associated with those payments, and reduce the waiting period for the delivery of future payments to unemployed Pennsylvania workers.  Starting June 9, PUA and PUA-related FPUC claimants who already have US Bank ReliaCards will receive their benefits in the form of deposits to those cards.  ReliaCards will be mailed to claimants who do not currently have cards, and those claimants will begin receiving benefit payments on the cards starting on approximately June 16. Payments will no longer be issued by paper check except upon request.

Once all PUA claimants have received a ReliaCard, you should expect to receive benefits, including the extra $600 per week provided by the FPUC program, as an electronic payment to their ReliaCard.  No other form of unemployment compensation or associated FPUC payments will be affected, at this time.

The switch to check payments was an immediate response to widespread concerns about criminal activity involving identity theft and fraudulent direct deposit accounts.  As the volume of PUA benefits continued to increase, it became clear that the high expenses and significant demands on both equipment and staff made payment by check unsustainable.  This change is a product of Treasury proactively seeking out a solution that is more secure, affordable, and sustainable in the long-term.  It is estimated that issuing payments via debit card, rather than checks, will save Pennsylvania taxpayers approximately $1 million per month in increased printing and postage costs.

If you are currently receiving PUA or PUA-related FPUC payments and do not have a US Bank ReliaCard, please look for a plain, white envelope with your new ReliaCard.  It should arrive between June 16 and June 21 and will be marked with an Indianapolis postmark.  Please do not destroy or throw this envelope away.

Payments to US Bank ReliaCards will be deposited three business days following the day of the claimant’s filing, except that Friday filers will receive deposits to their card two business days later.  PUA claimants who do not yet have a ReliaCard are expected to receive one in the next two weeks and will then begin to receive payments on the ReliaCard.

Benefits payments for ReliaCards will follow the pay schedule below:

Day of the Week that a
Claim is Filed:
Day of the Week that
Benefits will be Issued:
Sunday Wednesday
Monday Thursday
Tuesday Friday
Wednesday Monday
Thursday Tuesday
Friday Tuesday

Eligible PUA and PUA-related FPUC claimants who do not have ReliaCards and file for benefits from Friday, June 5 through and including Thursday, June 11 will still receive those benefits by checks delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.  Those checks should arrive within four to seven business days following the day of filing.  During this same period, US Bank, the ReliaCard provider, will be mailing debit cards to all PUA and PUA-related FPUC benefits recipients who do not currently have active debit cards. It is our objective to avoid interrupting payments for those who are receiving PUA benefits but who do not currently have an active ReliaCard.

ReliaCardsThe new ReliaCards should be delivered to most PUA and PUA-related FPUC claimants who do not currently have debit cards between June 16 and June 21.  Separate mailings will provide additional important information about the ReliaCards, including how individuals can request to have payment by check reinstated.  Claims filed for benefits starting on Friday, June 12 will be paid by deposit to the ReliaCard.  It is our expectation that most new ReliaCards will be received by claimants within one or two days of the first deposits being placed on their cards.  In many instances, we expect these first deposits will be available to claimants through their debit cards earlier than if they had continued to be paid by check.

The US Bank ReliaCard offers claimants fast and secure access to funds.  ReliaCards can be used at any retail location that accepts Visa.  Cardholders also have unlimited in-network ATM cash withdrawals and balance inquiries, can access online bill-pay, and can transfer funds to a personal account.  For more information about the ReliaCard, please click here.  

Reminder: Lehigh Valley to YELLOW

The Lehigh Valley moved into the yellow phase on Friday, June 5th. Specific activities can resume, with certain restrictions – including, but not limited to:

I know it has been difficult – I know we all want to return to normal (or a new normal), but the crisis is not over. Gyms, spas, hair salons, nail salons, massage therapy, casinos, and theaters remain closed. Gatherings above 25 are prohibited.

Lehigh Valley, you are still strongly encouraged to avoid social contact outside your household. Please continue wearing a mask in public, practice social distancing, and self-monitor for symptoms. If we all follow these rules – we will be to GREEN soon enough!

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Offices of State Senator Lisa M. Boscola

www.senatorboscola.com

BETHLEHEM OFFICE
One East Broad Street
Suite 120
Bethlehem, PA 18018
(610) 868-8667
Fax: (610) 861-2184
Toll-free: 1-877-535-1818
EASTON OFFICE
1701 Washington Blvd.
Easton, PA 18042
(610) 250-5627
(610) 250-5629
Fax: (610) 250-1889
HARRISBURG OFFICE
458 Main Capitol Building
Senate Box 203018
Harrisburg, PA 17120-3018
(717) 787-4236
Fax: (717) 783-1257
Senate of PA:
1-800-364-158 (TTY)