Community and Economic Support, Investments, and Recovery Efforts Continue Amid Telework
HARRISBURG, PA – Today, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Dennis Davin outlined efforts to ensure continued delivery of critical services to Pennsylvania’s communities and businesses amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The majority of DCED staff continue to work from home to ensure the health and safety of employees department-wide during mitigation efforts for COVID-19. During the pandemic, DCED staff distributed millions of dollars in grants and loans to businesses and communities, advanced personal protective equipment manufacturing and testing and vaccine development efforts, and more—all while continuing the usual day-to-day operations serving the commonwealth’s businesses and communities during the pandemic.
“DCED’s programs are vital lifelines to workers, business owners and communities during this pandemic. The ability for our employees to telework ensures that we can continue to deliver much-needed funding and services at a time when they are greatly needed,” said DCED Secretary Dennis Davin. “I am proud of our accomplishments and the commitment of our agency and the Wolf Administration to working together on behalf of all Pennsylvanians under the most unprecedented circumstances.”
Throughout the pandemic, state agencies have followed guidance issued by the Governor and Secretary of Health for businesses, including the recommendation for employees to telework, if possible. Approximately one-third of commonwealth employees are either teleworking full-time or splitting their time between telework and working onsite based on their job duties. The Office of Administration has also developed resources to support employees and supervisors while teleworking.
“The ability to work remotely is allowing thousands of commonwealth employees to continue to serve their fellow Pennsylvanians, provide for their families, and contribute to our state’s economy,” noted Secretary of Administration Michael Newsome. “Teleworking is a proven, common sense way to maintain productivity and protect public health.”
As part of the Wolf administration’s comprehensive response to the pandemic, DCED was tasked with the critical work of providing funding and resources to businesses and communities struggling with the impacts of the pandemic. The department developed three PPE manufacturing portals, helped distribute more than $324 million in funds for the Hospital Emergency Loan Program, distributed $50 million in Hazard Pay funding to frontline workers, $225 million to struggling small businesses, $60 million in low-interest loans through the COVID-19 Working Capital Access program, $625 million through the County Relief Block Grant program, $20 million to museums and cultural organizations, and $10 million in grants for the development of vaccines, therapies, and treatments.
Since the announcement of the governor’s mitigation efforts in March, DCED’s Customer Service department has received nearly 60,000 contacts, including emails, voicemails, and live calls, assisting individuals and business owners with questions and concerns. Staff from all areas of the department helped support the customer service team in responding to calls, allowing customer service to keep call lines fully operational while continuing to provide technical support to the 12 agencies that utilize the Electronic Single Application (ESA) system that manages state funding programs. The five-person customer service team expanded to a 95-person team at the height of response efforts. During the busiest response week, March 30-April 3, DCED averaged 1,650 live calls per day.
To date, DCED has assisted nearly 5,000 small businesses across all 67 counties, awarded hazard pay to 639 employers, supporting a $3 an hour increase in pay for 41,587 workers, and provided hundreds of millions of dollars in HELP funding to 31 hospitals.
The Office of International Business Development (OIBD) played a critical role in connecting the Department of General Services (DGS) and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) to China to import personal protective equipment (PPE) and other needed medical products and equipment. OIBD has also secured PPE donations by working closely through partnerships in Taiwan, resulting in a humanitarian donation of more than 100,000 surgical masks for Pennsylvania with coverage of all shipping and customs’ clearance costs. Additionally, they assisted in the process for Up Chem—a successful investment project from China with an office in Montgomery County—to donate $100,000 worth of non-medical masks to the commonwealth.
The department’s Local Government Office remained actively engaged with residents who reached out with concerns regarding housing stability, providing information and referrals for those facing or being threatened with eviction or foreclosure, connecting the homeless population with services, and assisting shelters with the challenges of meeting critical social distancing requirements. Community and Housing Development (CHD) staff also released the annual Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) entitlement appropriations along with the first of two supplemental CDBG CARES appropriations and guidelines, funded $3 million in infrastructure investments in rural towns and villages, awarded $7.2 million in new affordable housing development and preservation activities through the HOME program, and reviewed and prioritized emergency solution grant requests with guidance on how to address the pandemic with a new $19 million in ESG CARES funds—all while launching an upgraded homeless management information system to help providers operate in the field.
In partnership with the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, DCED’s Office of Tourism issued guidance to support small businesses by visiting CarryoutPA to easily find dine-out options being offered by local restaurants. CarryoutPA offers the most accurate and up-to-date information about restaurant availability. Restaurants who offer take-out options and would like to participate can register on the CarryoutPA registration page.
Additionally, the Governor’s Action Team has continued its efforts to help businesses relocate to or expand here in the commonwealth. Since the pandemic began, eight businesses have either expanded or relocated to Pennsylvania, creating more than 1,500 new, full-time jobs and resulting in more than $1.1 billion in capital investments.
The Office of Technology and Innovation worked with more than 100 Partnerships for Regional Economic Performance (PREP) partners, including local Economic Development Corporations, Small Business Development Centers, Local Development Districts, and Industrial Resource Centers to provide critical assistance services to businesses working to cover from the impacts of COVID-19. DCED’s 10 regional PREP partners analyzed data collected from a customer relationship management system to accurately evaluate short and long-term economic recovery needs of clients’ companies. Additionally, staff processed applications for Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) funding to support economic development in Pennsylvania’s 52 Appalachian counties.
Since March, the department’s Financial Management Center (FMC) Quality Assurance and Operational Support team awarded, reviewed, and distributed contracts for the Census program; processed more than 385 state invoices; reviewed and processed more than 2,500 federal invoices, more than 825 financial status reports, more than 315 state contracts, amendments, and budget modifications; more than 745 federal contracts, amendments, and budget modifications; uploaded more than 1,675 contracts and amendments to the Office of the State Treasurer; and processed more than 950 live payments/checks.
The department also encouraged Pennsylvanians to support their neig,hbors with little acts of kindness during COVID-19 mitigation efforts. From a simple check-in call to a bulk grocery store haul, these acts are impactful and inspiring. To celebrate the efforts of individuals across the commonwealth, DCED has asked Pennsylvanians to share their acts of kindness on social media with the hashtag #143PA. The department noted that the 143 Kindness Tracker is available for Pennsylvanians looking for ideas and inspiration.
Finally, individuals practicing social distancing and staying home can “explore now and visit later” by virtually discovering statewide tourism experiences through DCED’s Pursue Your Hominess campaign. From outdoor activities to city life, this campaign showcases what Pennsylvania has to offer and shares how to plan for visits and trips when business and travel resume.