Bucks County Commissioner, Bob Harvie; Betty Rodriguez, Council Vice-President; Governor Tom Wolf; Dana Pezza, Itri Wood Fired Owner; Robert Cormack, BCEDC Executive Director

The Bucks County Covid Hospitality Industry Program (CHIRP) Team Met Governor Wolf in Bristol, PA

Gov. Tom Wolf visited Bristol Borough to speak about the state’s COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP).

The program allotted $145 million in funding assistance to hospitality industry businesses in the state. Bucks County received close to $7 million that was awarded to 196 businesses across 36 towns.

CHIRP 7.16.21 2Deanna Giorno, Program Manager, Economic Development, County of Bucks, coordinated the efforts with the Grant administrator, Bucks County Economic Development Corporation, Visit Bucks County, and the Redevelopment Authority. These agencies worked very well together; it was truly a team effort. Bob Cormack said, “From the initial planning to the final submission the collaboration was stellar.  I would be incredibly grateful to work with this group of individuals if the need or want should arise.” The organizations awarded close to $7 million, retaining 1,391 full-time jobs and 2,020 part-time jobs. The smallest award was $5,000 and the largest was $40,000. The longest-serving business opened in May 1958 , while the newest opened only weeks before COVID-19 began impacting the area.

The money for the program was funded through excess dollars in the Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Trust Fund. The governor said the fund needs to maintain $500 million to ensure it can help unemployed Pennsylvanians, but the fund recently had extra dollars that were discovered in December 2020. “There was $145 million over and above. We could take that and use it without increasing taxes or anybody’s burden. What a better use than taking it to businesses who were hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic?” Wolf said.

Dana Pezza, owner of Itri Wood Fired, told the crowd that the award assisted in keeping their small restaurant on Mill Street in Bristol Borough afloat. She recalled the uncertainty in the first days of the pandemic and also the tough decisions they had to make.

CHIRP 7.16.21 3“If we had not been able to secure such funds as the CHIRP grant, we would not be able to keep our doors open and our staff working,” Dana Pezza said. “While we and many of our friends in this business have been agile and resourceful, government assistance has been and remains essential to get our industry back on our feet. CHIRP has been unbelievably helpful to us to help us in retain all of our staff which has been our top priority,” she said.  Dana Pezza said the grant money has been used to help the eatery prepare for the changes in the industry that follow in the wake of COVID-19.

Bob Cormack, the executive director of the Bucks County Economic Development Corporation, said the CHIRP grants were the perfect match to help businesses like Itri.

“The impact of the pandemic on our economy was historic, and the hospitality industry took much of the hit,” said Bucks County Commissioner Bob Harvie, a Democrat from Falls Township. “I was proud that we, as a county, could issue as many grants as we did in 2020, but we knew more was needed. The CHIRP grant from the state is an example of government seeing a problem and taking action to help people affected by the problem.”

The hospitality industry in Bucks County is among its most important. Before the pandemic, the industry supported more than 28,700 jobs and had a financial impact of $1.1 billion.

CHIRP award graphic

Photo couresty Bucks County Public Information.