Representatives of Mercer County and several municipalities learned more on Monday about Community Development Block Grant funds, including COVID-19 allocations.

Chris Conti, a senior planner with the Mercer County Regional Planning Commission, conducted a virtual public hearing.

The commission administers the CDBG program, which provides grants to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Things are a bit different this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.

There are more grants available through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known at the CARES Act.

CARES Act grant applicants cannot request funding that would duplicate other funding sources, and the application deadline is Aug. 31.

The grant requests must relate to the pandemic response and can cover expenses like legal fees, advertising costs and payroll, Conti said, adding that federal guidelines dictating how that money can be used are not finished yet.

Mercer County is expected to receive $429,925 in CDBG COVID-19 grants with some of those funds going to these municipalities:

• Grove City borough, $72,294;

• Greenville, $65,856; Sharpsville, $61,827; and

• Pine Township, $63,796.

Conti believes that most of the COVID-19 grants will be used for small businesses.

Jeanine Thompson, a supervisor and the secretary-treasurer for Pine Township, asked Conti to define “small business.”

A small business has less than 100 employees and less than $1 million in annual revenue, he said.

Those business owners must show that their operations were disrupted because of the pandemic, and they must provide evidence of viability before the pandemic.

Those businesses must also show that they have been operational for at least one year.

It’s suggested that the business owners submit the COVID-19 grant applications with assistance from an economic development group or chamber of commerce, Conti said.

Also, the county will receive $732,901 in CDBG funds for fiscal year 2020. Some of that funding will go to:

• Grove City, $137,685;

• Greenville, $112,366;

• Sharpsville, $96,519; and

• Pine Township, $104,263.

CDBG funds must benefit low-to-moderate income people, and 70 percent of the allocation must be used for that purpose, Conti said.

Eligible projects include eliminating blight and slums, housing rehabilitation, handicap accessibility, and public works improvements – things that serve an urgent or local need.

The planning commission will host a second hearing for the COVID-19 grant program most likely in July, and a second CDBG hearing in September, Conti said.

The commission hosted a second public hearing on Monday to review funding for the city of Farrell, which is expected to receive $303,184 from the CDBG program, and $193,732 in COVID-19 grant money.

The planning commission is accepting written comments related to Monday’s hearings. The deadline is July 7, and the comments can be emailed to cconti@mcrpc.com or mailed to: Mercer County Regional Planning Commission, 2491 Highland Road, Hermitage, PA 16148.

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