To help business owners struggling to recover from COVID-19, an Easton nonprofit is collaborating with the city and another organization to create a relief fund of $300,000 in emergency capital.
The Greater Easton Development Partnership has joined with the city of Easton and the Easton Area Industrial Land Development to create the Support Easton Small Business Relief Fund.
The partners have already raised $200,000, which includes some of the city’s own resources, said John Kingsley, director of Community and Economic Development for Easton.
The program is open to any for-profit business in the city. The application period has begun and will end April 12. GEDP will administer the program, working with the city’s Department of Community and Economic Development.
The city has its own loan program through the city’s Redevelopment Authority where it committed some resources in addition to the funds EALD and GEDP provided, he added.
“It’s going to be a short-term working capital loan,” Kingsley said. “This is not a significant maximum loan amount.”
There is a $10,000 cap, and he anticipates most of the loans would be less than that.
“Our small businesses are the ones that are going to suffer the most as they are going to be impacted by tourism,” Kingsley said.
Although there are several state and federal funding programs available for businesses, getting those resources would take a while, he said. “We believe by putting together our own resources, we would be more agile; we recognize what they are going through.”
A number of local corporate and philanthropic partners have provided funds, including Peoples Security Bank & Trust, Wells Fargo, Post Road Management, Univest Bank & Trust Co., BSI Corporate Benefits, Lafayette College, Merchants Bank, Fidelity Bank and Valor Insurance.
But they are looking for more partners to donate.
“We are challenging other community partners to step up,” said Jared Mast, executive director of GEDP. “We are in this to be a short-term relief valve. We are looking at the next 30 to 60 days. We are trying to deploy funds very quickly in the hope of getting businesses through the next month or two.”
Anthony DaRae, CEO of BSI Corporate Benefits in Bethlehem, one of the early supporters, said said he was on board immediately.
“The federal and state governments will do their parts but ultimately, we know our communities best and we know the faces of the people and businesses that are hardest hit,” DaRae said in a statement. “When Jared contacted me about this project, I was on board immediately. This business community is hurting like so many others across the country, but this one is ours, and it is our responsibility to be there in this great time of need. In pulling this relief fund together with great buy-in from the business community, it is clear who is committed during this challenging time. I’m proud to support the Easton business community and this vital initiative.”
This effort goes along with the supporteaston.com website that GEDP debuted on March 21. That website directs community members to Easton businesses that are staying open and finding creative ways to serve customers at this time, such as curbside pick-up, takeout, online workshops and classes, and online ordering.
Information is available at supporteaston.com under the “Relief Fund” tab, or at supporteaston.com/relief-fund/. Interested businesses can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for information and an application.