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Business/Economy

110 Erie County small businesses, nonprofits receive $701K in PPE aid

A barista hands a cup of coffee to a customer through a plexiglass divider
Rich Pedroncelli
/
Associated Press
Plexiglass dividers, gloves and face masks were common forms of personal protective equipment needed by businesses to continue operating during the pandemic.

A local program to help small businesses purchase protective equipment may have kept them open, according to the Erie County Industrial Development Agency. Agency staff told the board Wednesday the grant program reimbursed 110 small businesses and non-profits for $701,000 in PPE.

President and CEO John Cappellino said the agency started out with a first round of awards in August of last year. When that $500,000 ran out, the agency put another $500,000 into a fund — and about half of that was spent before the state emergency authority for the program ran out. The money went for everything from gloves to Plexiglass barriers.

"Early on, I think there was some difficulty in people being able to find masks and gloves. As the time went on, the local supplies were pretty robust, so people really seemed able to source supplies and materials as they moved through into the summer last year and forward," Cappellino said.

He noted one particular small business that prepares meals.

"Every time they changed different types of protein, if it's a vegetable, they have to change gloves and do all that stuff. So the dollar amounts of just buying gloves and masks can add up pretty significantly for small companies," he said. "So I think, yeah, it did help businesses reopen and some of the smaller businesses be able to continue to pay the additional costs that they weren't anticipating."

He said state legislation creating the program stressed grants to veterans and minority and women businesses. The cash also helped customers when there were early shortages and smaller non-profits that needed safety equipment to keep operating. Additional help was made available to anyone having trouble with English to get all the needed forms required by the state filled out.