Originally published July 1. Updated July 8 with full CHIRP list.
Craig and Rosalie George, co-owners of the Annville Inn Bed and Breakfast, were overcome with emotion when they learned their CHIRP application had been accepted.
“When we heard we were going to get a COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Relief Program (CHIRP) grant, we were thrilled because any little bit would help,” said Craig. “We were excited that there would be some type of aid to help our business.’’
Annville Inn is one of 40 businesses in the hospitality industry in Lebanon County to receive nearly $1.6 million in federal (CHIRP) grant funding, according to Melissa Kulbitsky, economic development specialist, Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).
Kulbitsky, whose employer administered the program on behalf of the Lebanon County commissioners, said LVEDC was slammed with CHIRP applications almost immediately after the application window opened on March 15. Grants were disbursed at a minimum of $5,000 to a maximum of $50,000 per business in $5,000 increments, added Kulbitsky.
“It was within a matter of days that the applications started to come in and we received 40 to 45 (of 50 total) applications almost immediately,” said Kulbitsky. “Quite a few qualified for the $50,000, so the $1.6 million mark got hit pretty quickly.”
The application itself was quite extensive. To ensure businesses’ applications were compliant, LVEDC staff and several volunteers worked a total of 750 hours processing and assisting business owners with their CHIRP paperwork.
“It was a lot of work, but it was nice to get the checks out to help these businesses,” said Kulbitsky. “We knew they were busy trying to survive, so we did what needed to be done to assist them in meeting the program requirements.”
Read More: Demand for Lebanon County CHIRP funding exceeds supply, at least for now
While LVEDC received $500 per application for the work it did to distribute the funding, the real reward was being able to assist people who were financially crippled during the global pandemic.
“So many of them came in to pick up their checks and each and every one of them was very grateful,” said Kulbitsky. “Some who came in cried. We had a hotel owner who was so grateful that he wanted to bring in a pizza to thank us but, of course, we told him no.”
Kulbitsky said 16 cafes, coffee shops, diners, restaurants and taverns, 14 motels, hotels and inns, seven bars and lounges, two ice cream shops and one catering service received CHIRP funding, with the first checks being cut on May 7 and the last written on June 10.
Read More: $1.6 million in grants to be distributed to local restaurants, hotels
Kulbitsky noted funding could cover a number of costs, including utilities, mortgage, rent, COVID-related expenses and employee payroll, as long as this funding wasn’t for payroll already compensated under the Payroll Protection Program (PPP). Using the CHIRP grant to pay taxes was prohibited and state taxes had to be current with the commonwealth, she added.
Regardless of how owners decide to use the funding they received, it certainly provides relief so that they can keep the lights on and their employees on the payroll.
“538 full-time positions were retained due to the disbursement of the CHIRP funds,” Kulbitsky wrote in an email. “Please note that the data gathered DID NOT capture part-time position numbers. Since the hospitality industry runs on part-time positions, many more positions were retained over and above the full-time positions documented. So the total number of employees retained in their part-time positions is a much higher figure than the 538.”
Read More: Hospitality industry gets a helping hand: $1.6 million to aid businesses via CHIRP
Kulbitsky noted that the application asked owners for second quarter income for 2019 versus that same period in 2020, which is when COVID-19 caused a statewide shutdown in mid-March of last year.
“In looking at two years of income, that second quarter (of 2020) is when revenues took big hits,” said Kulbitsky. “So many restaurants were very resilient though and pivoted to find ways to make income once they had reopened. We had those that were back to their normal level of income by the fourth quarter, which really speaks to the resilience of Lebanon Countians.”
Hotel revenues, on the other hand, have taken a bit longer to rebound from the effects of fewer people traveling and businesses not having conferences and other events at local facilities, noted Kulbitsky.
“Hotels are picking up now but they went through dry periods where they really took a loss,” she added.
For Craig George, the loss of income for their B&B had a multiplier effect on the area’s economy.
“We are an economic engine,” George explained. “Not only do we generate revenue from the people who come here to stay, but we send them out to restaurants, typically for four meals per stay. Our guests buy gas at gas stations, we send them to the Lebanon Market to buy supplies and we provide information concerning other area businesses for them to shop.”
As for the 10 businesses that didn’t receive any funding, it wasn’t for a lack of trying on the part of LVEDC staff, according to Kulbitsky.
“We literally bent over backwards to qualify everyone that we could qualify,” she said. “Some didn’t respond when additional paperwork was requested. Some didn’t lose 25 percent revenue, so they didn’t qualify for the program. Several were nonprofits and you had to be a for-profit business to qualify for this grant.”
Craig said his business easily met the 25 percent revenue loss criteria – and then some.
“It was an 100 percent loss for us,” said Craig. “And actually it was a negative loss in excess of that because typically when you book a room, you pay a deposit. When people couldn’t come, they wanted refunds and we honored every refund request that we received. So we had a negative loss of prepaid revenue when times were still good prior to the shutdown, plus the loss of revenue when guests would have stayed with us.”
When the Georges received the call that their application had been accepted and a check would be mailed to them, they decided to pay LVEDC staff a visit. George said they wanted to get their check in-person so that they could meet the staff who had become “more than just some face” to them, citing the wonderful assistance provided during the application process.
Upon receiving their checks, the Georges were overcome by so many emotions, as they reflected on the past year.
“We both were teary-eyed and emotional,” said Craig. “Not only did we lose revenue, but so did our staff and area businesses that we purchase goods from to supply our kitchen. We are a farm-to-table business and we couldn’t support our vendors during the pandemic. Also, if we don’t book a guest room, we can’t hold it and re-book it another time. Once an opportunity to book a room is gone, it is gone forever.”
These, and other factors, contributed to that emotional moment at LVEDC, Craig added.
“So you can see why we would be overcome with emotion,” said Craig. “Our industry, the hospitality industry, really took a (financial) nosedive during the pandemic.”
Full list of Lebanon County CHIRP recipients
|1825 Inn Bed & Breakfast||$25,000|
|BCGc, Inc – Porch and Pantry||$15,000|
|Dhanes Hwain – Dutch Motel||$50,000|
|Funk Brothers Enterprises||$50,000|
|Hampton Inn Lebanon||$50,000|
|Lebanon Hospitality-Holiday Inn||$50,000|
|Mt Gretna Entertainment Hideaw||$50,000|
|Mt Gretna Pizzaria||$20,000|
|Red Headed League||$50,000|
|RGK, Mel’s Dinner||$35,000|
|Royal D Chocolate||$20,000|
|Schwalms Cleona Rest||$50,000|
|Shree Om Balaji||$45,000|
|Smita Shah LLC – Roadway||$25,000|
|South China Buffet||$50,000|
|Swatara Coffee Company||$30,000|
|William Kutler – DBA||$5,000|
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