By Howard Monroe


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — More help is on the way for small businesses in Philadelphia. Small businesses in University City can soon apply for local grants thanks to a new program that opens Wednesday.

“I swing anywhere from resiliently optimistic to scared out of my shorts,” Clarkville West Philly owner Brendan Hartranft said.

The pizza and beer shop is still open, but their menu options and hours are scaled back.

“We’re limiting our hours to serve the community, not necessarily run a business,” he said.

Now the community is hoping to serve him as the University City District is launching a new grant program and $250,000 is up for grabs.

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“If you’re a small business trying to make it in on a commercial corridor, you’ve been through a lot of bumps in the road. This is something more substantial that’s ever happened before,” University City District President Matt Bergheiser said.

Small businesses will be able to apply for grants between $1,000 and $5,000.

To be eligible, there must be a brick and mortar location, including restaurants and other retailers. There can’t be more than five locations and the business had to be in operation before Jan. 1 of this year.

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The program was made possible by a donation from the University of Pennsylvania.

“No program operates at the scale of the current challenge, so we’re just trying to piece together a puzzle of support,” Bergheiser said.

Unlike other programs, these grants will not have to be paid back, but Hartranft isn’t sure if he wants a piece of the pie.

“This isn’t a time and I hate to use the word, to be greedy, we’re just looking to keep our business open, not necessarily get everything that’s coming to us,” he said.

He says he doesn’t want to be underwater, so he’s still in the process of deciding which loans to apply for. Federal, state and local loans are available.

Candice Caruso, a senior vice president at WSFS Bank, says they’ve received over 2,000 federal loan applications.

Caruso says small businesses should look at the federal loan as a lifeline to employees.

“It’s truly to help them maintain their valuable employees so that they don’t seek employment elsewhere and that they can provide sustainability for those employees to come back to work sooner, even if the economy hasn’t quite caught up,” she said.

The program goes live at 9 a.m. on Wednesday. Also, Montgomery County is launching a grant program.

For more information on the University City District’s program, click here.

For information about Montgomery County’s program, click here.