Merski, Harkins remind area grocers, food retailers about COVID-19 relief fund

Program supports impacted businesses providing access to fresh, staple foods

ERIE, July 10 – State Reps. Bob Merski and Pat Harkins, both D-Erie, want to be sure area grocery stores and other food retailers are aware of a new program designed to provide relief to these businesses impacted by the pandemic.

The lawmakers said the Fresh Food Financing Initiative COVID-19 Relief Fund will support impacted businesses providing access to fresh, perishable and staple foods and will prioritize assistance to businesses located in and serving low-income communities.

“Our small local grocers, food retailers and nonprofit distributors provide our community with critical access to fresh, nutritious foods – a resource that is more important than ever as residents strive to stay healthy during the pandemic,” Merski said. “But just as it has affected all businesses, COVID-19 has made it harder for these critical food retailers to continue operating.

Harkins said, “This funding will help ensure that our community – and especially lower-income households –maintain access to the fresh, healthy food they need while also helping these key businesses contribute to our community’s economic health. We are urging all eligible local food retailers to apply.”

Merski and Harkins said the program applies to traditional retailers as well as non-profit and cooperative entities such as corner stores and farmers markets. The applicant must:

  • obtain at least 50% of revenue from the sale of staple and fresh food to consumers or direct-to-retail settings. 
  • operate and provide services in PA.
  • serve customers living in a low-to-moderate income areas.
  • have operated before March 2020 and remain in operation (temporary COVID-related closures are acceptable).
  • provide access to affordable, high-qualify fresh produce, meat and dairy produces.
  • accept, or demonstrate plans to accept, SNAP and WI to the maximum extent possible.
  • show that funds being sought for a start-up such as a farmers market is necessary because food access is being limited due to COVID-19, or that funds being sought for direct-to-consumer retail expansion is necessary because of lost or disrupted markets.

The relief program is an extension of the existing Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative. Additional information about the program is available here.