About 1,200 Pennsylvania barber shops and salons across the commonwealth that applied for, but did not receive, state pandemic assistance last year are now eligible for $20 million in funding earmarked just for their industry, two Democratic lawmakers from Philadelphia announced Thursday.
Sen. Vincent Hughes, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, and House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, announced the funding at a press conference outside a West Philadelphia barbershop.
Hughes said the dollars would target “an industry that caught a significant amount of hell through the pandemic, still struggling to come back.”
Health orders kept Pennsylvania barbershops and salons closed for at least 100 days in 2020, the Daily Local of West Chester reported last year.
Officials quickly shut the industry down as unessential during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, presenting challenges for barbers, hair stylists, beauticians and other similar professions.
A spokesperson for the Department of Community and Economic Development, which is administering the funds, said that local community development groups had already identified the eligible businesses, and would contact them about the funding.
The $20 million comes from a pool of $370 million in federal stimulus money allocated to Gov. Tom Wolf’s office in the 2021-22 budget. He signed the spending plan into law at the end of June.
Those stimulus dollars are just a small fraction of the $7.3 billion Pennsylvania received from the federal government. But the Republican-controlled General Assembly opted instead to stash most of the cash away for projected future budget shortfalls.
Still, the budget deal did include a small pot of stimulus money for Wolf to spend at his discretion. He’s been engaged in private talks with legislative Democrats and Republicans on how to use it.
Thursday’s announcement was the first involving the money. Wolf and Hughes had previously floated using some of the funds to incentivize vaccinations.
Legislative Democrats, such as Hughes, roundly criticized the Republican move in the legislature then and have continued to do so.
“We could do more, we could do much more if we had more resources. And the fact is … with over $7 billion sitting in Harrisburg, there is money available. We just need the political will to get it done,” Hughes said Thursday.