OLD FORGE, LACKAWANNA COUNTY — Governor Wolf made a stop in Lackawanna County talking about the impacts of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry.
Over the past few months, millions of dollars have been given out to help owners. Governor Wolf came to Cafe Rinaldi to see how they were doing after receiving a grant that helped them get back on their feet.
Governor Wolf made a stop in Old Forge to boast about the state’s COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program or CHIRP, pumping $145 million from the state’s “workers compensation trust fund” into the state’s economy.
“Here in Lackawanna County to 171 recipients. They received $2.3 million. Anywhere from $5,000 to $50,000,” explained Governor Wolf.
Wolf says all 67 counties applied for funding within 28 hours of announcing it in February. Lackawanna County Commissioners added an extra $150,000 on top of the grant.
“Together we are all working to make sure all Pennsylvania gets back on track as quickly as we possibly can,” said Governor Wolf.
“It was really nice to be able to just like, breathe a little bit and know, you know, things are looking better,” Cafe Rinaldi owner Russell Rinaldi said.
Rinaldi says the awarding of the grant money in may helped his business stay open.
“The suppliers bills might have continued to back up, the utility bill might have continued to back up,” Rinaldi said.
Pre-pandemic, Cafe Rinaldi had 20 employees and was open five days a week. Right now, they’re down to 12 employees and open four days week. Rinaldi is looking to hire more people and open a new restaurant in Moosic.
“We’re excited about it. You know it’s our business, it’s our livelihood. We’re passionate about it and as soon as we can be open down there we are going in full stream and come out of the gate,” Rinaldi said.
After the press event, Governor Wolf took questions. The media, including Eyewitness News, asked if he would impose restrictions on businesses if COVID cases continued to rise in the state. This was his response: “I’m doing everything I can to make sure we never go back to that. There’s a pretty clear relationship. You want to make sure we stay back to normal and keep moving in the direction we’re moving, get the vaccine.”
Governor Wolf was also asked if he would mandate proof of vaccination to enter an establishment like New York City has required. Wolf responded with “no” and he added “People can make their own choices whether to get vaccinated or not.”