Good morning. The trickle-down effect of the American Rescue Plan -- the latest Covid-19 relief bill from the federal government -- is coming into focus. Pennsylvania is slated to get about $13.7 billion. The National League of Cities has broken the totals down even further, producing an estimate for every county in the U.S. In Central Pennsylvania, the projections are: $105.84 million for Lancaster; $87.09 million for York; $53.97 million for Dauphin; $49.14 million for Cumberland; and $27.5 million for Lebanon.
  • The money can be used to help residents, nonprofits, small businesses, industries and local governments that have been hurt by the pandemic.
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State eases limits on restaurants, bars, other venues

Citing progress in the fight against Covid-19, Gov. Tom Wolf yesterday said he is loosening some of the restrictions that bars, restaurants and other venues have been chafing against since last year.
  • The higher limits take effect April 4, which happens to be Easter Sunday, as well as the final day of Passover.
  • The changes in Pennsylvania follow moves around the country to loosen pandemic-related restrictions that have been in place one way or another for more than a year.
  • The restrictions have been particularly difficult for restaurants and bars, which have cut tens of thousands of jobs as business plunged.

What are the new limits: Restaurants can resume bar service; patrons can order drinks without having to order a meal; and the cap on indoor seating will jump from 50% to 75% for restaurants that have gone through the state's self-certification process, according to a notice from the state.
  • Restaurants that don't self-certify can seat up to 50% of capacity, an increase over the current cap of 25%.
  • Gyms, casinos and theaters, meanwhile, will be able to operate at 75% capacity.
  • Indoor venues can operate at 25% capacity, while outdoor venues like baseball stadiums can move to 50%.
  • The new venue limits follow an earlier loosening at the start of March.
Are there any caveats: Yes. People still must wear masks and observe the social-distancing requirement of keeping six feet apart, which could be a problem for small restaurants hoping to bring more tables out of storage.
  • “We’ve come so far and now is not the time to stop the safety measures we have in place to protect ourselves, our families and our communities,” Wolf said in a statement. “Keep wearing a mask, social distancing, and, please, get vaccinated when it’s your turn.”
  • Restaurants also have to wait several weeks, which drew some criticism from the industry.
  • Other states have moved more quickly. John Longstreet, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Restaurant & Lodging Association, said in a statement. "We would like to see the Governor allow the hospitality industry the opportunity to come back to business quicker, so that these businesses can survive this long period of disruption,"

The bottom line: The looser limits come as Pennsylvania counties take applications for a $145 million grant program designed to help bars, restaurants and hotels that have lost revenue due to Covid-19.
  • The application process for so-called CHIRP grants is under way in Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon and York counties.
  • Restaurants also stand to benefit from a $28.6 billion federal grant program, signed into law last week by President Joe Biden.

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Quick takes

WHO'S BUYING: West Shore Home. The Cumberland County-based home remodeler has bought a Maryland contractor, Herl's Bath and Home Solutions. Terms of the deal, the second this year for West Shore Home, were not disclosed. Herl's employed 75 people, bringing West Shore Home's workforce to roughly 1,450, according to a spokesperson.
  • The acquisition extends West Shore Home into the Baltimore and Salisbury-area markets in Maryland, where Herl's had offices.
  • West Shore Home has more than 20 additional offices in Pennsylvania, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas.
  • The company has said previously it is on track for revenue of roughly $500 million this year.
BJ Werzyn, left, president, CEO and founder of West Shore Home, with Greg Herling, owner of Herl's Bath and Home Solutions. (PHOTO SUBMITTED)

WHO MADE THE CUT: Five startups competing for cash and services in the Great Social Enterprise Pitch, an annual startup competition hosted by Lancaster-based nonprofit Assets. Following a virtual pitch contest among 10 entrepreneurs, five are moving on to the final pitch, a virtual event scheduled for April 16. They are:
What's the prize: All five will win free marketing, legal and financial services. The top pitch, though, will receive $7,500 in cash. Second place nets $4,000, followed by $2,000 for third, $1,000 for fourth and $500 for fifth.
  • The competition will be streamed live.
  • The Great Social Enterprise Pitch was launched in 2014 by Assets and the Lancaster County Community Foundation.
Pictured from left: Hawa Lassanah, Elizabeth Byler, Chelsea Christmas, Lennon Mazonde and Sallie Tupper.

WHO'S STARTING THE POT: The Pennsylvania Housing Finance Agency. The state agency is contributing $10 million toward creation of a new $50 million fund designed to spur greater diversity among affordable-home builders. Announced last week, the Developer Opportunity Fund is expected to create opportunities for women- and minority-owned developers of affordable housing.
  • The initial pilot phase is now open and the agency is looking for its first projects to support, according to Scott Elliott, a spokesperson for the agency.
  • The agency is inviting established developers and others in the private sector to contribute toward the fund. They could benefit from increased deal flow and satisfaction of regulatory requirements for community investments, Elliott wrote in an email.


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Compiled and written by Joel Berg

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