The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the way we lead our organizations and support our businesses in communities across Pennsylvania. Difficult decisions have had to be made - including this past week's call to cancel PEDA's 2020 Spring Conference - and more will be faced in the recovery ahead. Yet, despite these challenges, I have found it heartening to see the enhanced level of dialogue between and collaboration among economic development professionals and partners as we all seek an expeditious path back to normalcy that takes into account our citizens' physical and financial wellbeing.
I'd like to thank the many members and partners of PEDA who have provided and continue to provide thoughtful insight regarding funding and policy around COVID-19, including, but not limited to, the COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program (CWCA). As many of you know, there is an ongoing recovery-related dialogue between PEDA and DCED leadership and we have offered them a number of concepts to keep in mind should an additional round of CWCA funding become available. A few highlights of these thoughts are provided below, each of which recognizes that the processes associated with the first round of funding were necessary to meet immediate objectives and that a prospective second round of funding would allow time to develop new, strategic processes for deployment.
- Establishment of Allocations: Allocating funds by community (which could be a PREP region, county or CEDO, for example) would ensure professionals with their fingers on the pulse of their respective business communities could be more strategic in vetting applicants and provide a measure of equalization in assuring businesses with the most pressing financial needs are top priority.
- Calculation of Allocations: This could be based on a variety of factors, ranging from proportionately allocating monies to PREP regions based on population (assuring urban, rural and suburban areas of gaining access) to allocating dollars based on the timeframes in which communities are expected to reopen (The later the phased opening, the more funds should be made available.).
- Expiration of Allocations: To prevent funds from sitting unused in one community's allocation while businesses' needs remain unmet in other communities, a date could be established on which any funds allocated to a community and unused could be rolled into the general program fund for distribution on a first-come, first-served basis anywhere across the state.
- Timing of Application Period: To allow adequate time for a community to ramp up and communicate with their businesses, the application period of a second round of funding should be pushed out to July and announced as soon as possible.
- Inclusion / Omission of Certain Industries: A strategy should be developed to determine what businesses should be included, focused on or excluded in a future round of funding. Eligibility could be determined by, for example, NAICS codes, annual revenue, number of employees, etc.
- Other: Other suggestions focus on allowing some level of compensation to help CEDOs defray costs, adjusting the DSCR, expanding the term to a straight 10 year term, etc.
Please continue to share your recommendations and stories of creative ways in which you're serving the needs of your communities and, recognizing you may be inundated with offerings from many providers, let us know where PEDA can help to meet your recovery-related training needs.