Carlisle chamber seeks funding for small biz relief as pandemic impact continues

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By Zach Hoopes

With signs of the economic recovery faltering, and further aid still held up in Washington, D.C., the Carlisle Area Chamber of Commerce is seeking donations for a local small business relief program.

The Carlisle chamber’s website is now set up to receive donations for a local version of the PA 30 Day Fund, a program set up and administered by business groups in the state as a mutual aid effort during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An initial round of local funding using the PA 30 Day Fund system was paid out earlier this month, with 10 awards of $3,000 each to Carlisle-area businesses, according to the chamber. But more rounds of funding are needed.

“Our local small businesses need help, now more than ever,” said Michelle Crowley, CEO of the Carlisle Chamber. Any amount contributed will be used “so we may assist more small business owners through the 1st quarter of 2021, which we all believe will be very difficult.”

The PA 30 Day Fund system is structured as forgivable loans, effectively grants, that are to be used for costs such as payroll and health coverage, with the intent of allowing businesses to retain their employees even if work is slow due to the pandemic. Businesses must be based in Pennsylvania and owned and operated by a Pennsylvania resident, according to the program’s website.

Economic data shows that much of the pandemic recovery that occurred over the summer has slowed.

Retail sales nationally fell 1.1% in November, adjusting for seasonality, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

The Harrisburg-Carlisle metro region, which includes Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties, had roughly 13,700 fewer payroll employees in October 2020 versus October 2019, according to federal data.

The nominal unemployment rate for the region was 5.7% in October, although the total civilian labor force also shrank, indicating some residents may have stopped looking for work due to the protracted downturn.

Much of the economic aid from the federal government’s spring CARES Act is long gone, including Paycheck Protection Program loans and the $600 weekly unemployment bonus that kept consumer spending up and poverty levels down through the summer.

Congress is working on another round of federal fiscal relief totaling roughly $900 billion, with bipartisan agreement on the need for a deal before Christmas, but continuing divisions on the details, according to national media outlets.

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