Wolf Administration, Centre Co. Leaders: Nearly $2 Million Helping Local Bars and Restaurants with Pandemic Recovery

Gov. Wolf secured $145 million in pandemic relief for the hospitality industry

Harrisburg, PA – Deputy Secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Steve D’Ettorre joined SEDA-Council of Governments (SEDA-COG) executive director Kim Wheeler, Centre County Commissioner Mark Higgins, and chef and managing team member of ReFarm Café Duke Gastiger today to highlight the assistance available through the COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program (CHIRP).

“CHIRP funding serves as a crucial lifeline for businesses within Pennsylvania’s restaurant and hospitality industry—which we know was devastated by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Deputy Secretary D’Ettorre. “This assistance couldn’t be timelier as the commonwealth forges ahead in recovery. We are grateful to be hosted by ReFarm Café and hear how it can continue to educate and serve its community with healthy, sustainably-farmed food options.” Last year, Governor Tom Wolf secured $145 million in funding support businesses adversely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the commonwealth has worked with counties and economic development partners to quickly send assistance to the hospitality industry.

“SEDA-COG truly appreciates the opportunity to administer the distribution of CHIRP funds on behalf of the Centre County Commissioners,” said SEDA-COG Executive Director Kim Wheeler. “We know that the economic effects of the pandemic have crippled our local hospitality industry and we were pleased to help these industries in their recovery efforts.”

Counties are administering the funding through one or more designated Community Economic Development Organizations (CEDO) or Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI), which began processing applications from businesses in each county on March 15. Funding must be provided to businesses by July 15, 2021.

“Centre County Commissioner Mark Higgins wore a hole in a pair of dress shoes visiting over 120 hospitality companies to promote the CHIRP grant in person,” said the Centre County Commissioners. “The Centre County Commissioners would like to thank the staff of SEDA-COG for their hard work and close cooperation with Commissioner Higgins during the promotion phase of the CHIRP grant.”

Centre County awarded a total of 86 CHIRP grants totaling $1,809,992 distributed to the region’s restaurant and hospitality industry. ReFarm Café received $30,000 in CHIRP funding.

ReFarm Café is designed to optimize a healthy community of individuals who value our natural environment, sustainability, have a concern for the future, and a commitment to healthy food, grown with responsible intentions. In addition to providing a community resource for sustainability, ReFarm Café will provide a living, working lab for the public, university students, farmers, school aged children, and learners of all ages. The restaurant aims to enhance the quality of life for the community by offering an innovative opportunity to learn, participate, and experience true, realistic sustainable practices through a unique dining experience.

“Our applications for COVID disaster relief initially fell on deaf ears because our business model, a fine-dining restaurant on a working farm, did not fit most federal agency norms and forms. We’ve always been a square peg in a round hole but that is our exact vision—to be transformative for small farm agriculture and the restaurant industry, especially in energy and water conservation. The big push in food supply now is for local sourcing, where you know the farmer and know where your food comes from. The same rings true for government resources and local sourcing for governmental processes,” said ReFarm Café Chef and managing team member Duke Gastiger. “Our Centre County officials already knew us and understood our mission. When there were questions about our funding application they were addressed immediately with a quick email or phone call to a real live local person. CHIRP funding was administered professionally and timely and without it our vision could not have become a reality.”

For more information about the Department of Community and Economic Development, visit the DCED website, and be sure to stay up-to-date with all of our agency news on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Casey Smith, DCED, casesmith@pa.gov

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