Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.
See that guy in the suit up there? That’s former Republican LG candidate Jeff Bartos, who spent most of 2018 blinking ‘Help Me,’ in Morse Code, as he watched his then-running mate, former state Sen. Scott Wagner, career from one unforced error to another before finally flaming out in 17-point skunking on election night to Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.
Apparently unwilling to be consigned to footnote status in a campaign best known for a gloriously deranged YouTube video in which Wagner threatened to “stomp all over” Wolf’s face with a pair of golf spikes, Bartos, a real estate developer, has spent the last two years laying low, and maintaining an equally unlikely friendship with current LG John Fetterman.
Inspired by a childhood friend, Bartos reemerged this week with an effort he’s dubbed the “PA 30-Day Fund,” which provides forgivable bridge loans to small businesses waiting for their share of the Paycheck Protection Act or some other bit of federal, state or local assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Our conversation with Bartos, which is refreshingly free of threats involving athletic footwear, has been lightly edited for content and clarity.
Q: So how did this effort get rolling? What brought you to this point?
Bartos: “This is my 4th crisis. I had to furlough my entire business on March 16. I know I did the right thing. I pulled forward paid time off and vacation time, and paid sick time. I paid all of that out. [Later], I got a PPP loan, and I was able to bring everyone back. The next day, I got the call from my buddy in Virginia [Pete Snyder], who I grew up with in the Lancaster/Reading Area. He said I needed to do this in Pennsylvania.”
Q: So what is he doing?
Bartos: “He’s down in Virginia, in Charlottesville … he started this with a $100,000 donation and he launched the Virginia 30-Day Fund. Over the last four weeks, he raised close to $700,000 and funded 150 small businesses.
“He came up with this model where there’s a very simple rubric and it’s easy to apply. You have to be a Virginia small business, owned by Virginia resident, and you’ve been in business for a year, with three to 30 employees … You have to upload a video and talk about the business and why you need the money … He struck up a partnership with the University of Virginia. Now they have 50 volunteers who review the applications as they come in, and score them, and make recommendations to a funding committee. And then they make the call. They’re $3,000 forgivable loans to small business, and they prioritize those who use the funds to keep people on payroll, pay rent or pay health costs.”
Q: And so you got this going in Pennsylvania.
Bartos: Yeah. We got our [PPP] loan funded on April 17 and I was feeling pretty decent about myself. I was immediately able to do something and get my guys back on payroll. It was a good night. The next morning, my friend calls me, and says you have to do this. And I started making excuses. He asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was delivering meals and donating to food banks and helping my guys. And he asked me what I wanted to remember doing at this moment in 10 years. He had me there. It took about two weeks to organize.I got a board put together, and did all the filings.”
Q: So how’s it going so far? How much have you raised? And how many loans have you awarded?
Bartos: ” … As of [Thursday] morning, we’ve raised just shy of $90,000. And we had about 30 applications come in overnight. We hope to get the first, forgivable loans out by [Friday, May 8]. This has been the most profound thing I’ve ever done. I never imagined the effect that it would have on the community.
“What’s coolest about this is raising the money to help small businesses … And almost as important, and I know this sounds corny, is that there’s sense of hope. It’s not a lot of money, but people are on their last legs, and it gives them a shot of hope.”
Associate Editor Cassie Miller leads our coverage this morning with her conversation with environmental activists on the opportunities for climate justice offered by a post-pandemic Pennsylvania.
Gov. Tom Wolf has extended stay at home orders for most of Pennsylvania until June 4.
With reopening approaching for 24 counties, state Health Secretary Dr. Rachel Levine says now isn’t the time for Pennsylvanians to drop the ball on social distancing or other preventive measures. Miller has the story there, too.
NEPA Correspondent Patrick Abdalla has his look at how local small restaurant owners are weathering the pandemic, and how they’re preparing for an eventual reopening of their corner of the state.
Pittsburgh Correspondent Kim Lyons profiles a western Pennsylvania food charity, co-founded by current Second Lady Gisele Fetterman, that’s made the pivot to mobile deliveries during the pandemic.
Gov. Tom Wolf and Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced a 60-day extension on the state’s current, court-ordered moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. It was supposed to expire next week. It will now run until July 10, your humble newsletter author writes.
From our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune, a consortium of Black doctors is offering free COVID-19 testing during Ramadan. The city’s schools have also begun offering mental health services to students and online courses for parents.
On our Commentary Page, Jay Bookman, a columnist for our sibling site, the Georgia Recorder, says it’s long past time for justice for Ahmaud Arbery, who was gunned down for running while Black. And Penn State scholar Marilyn J. Roossnick looks at the parallels and differences between the SARS pandemic and COVID-19.
En la Estrella-Capital, Josh Shapiro presenta un informe de la Corte Suprema de Los EEUU defendiendo a los cierres comerciales de Wolf. Y Gov. Tom Wolf y Sec.State Kathy Boockvar le instan a los residentes de Pa. para ‘aplicar hoy’ para las papeletes por correo para las elecciones primarias del 2 de Junio.
Atlantic City casinos, betting on good news, are accepting reservations for June 1 and beyond, PhillyMag reports.
The Incline would like to introduce you to the Pitt researchers working on a COVID-19 vaccine.
With 8 in 10 new COVID-19 deaths in Pennsylvania, state lawmakers are looking for answers, The Morning Call reports.
Officials have found 13 cases of COVID-19 among staff and inmates at Dauphin County Prison, The ‘Burg reports.
Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:
Delaware has delayed its presidential primary again, WHYY-FM reports.
The PA Post looks at the way local governments are keeping things going amid the pandemic.
Roll Call looks at the growing push on Capitol Hill to give every American $2,000 a month.
What Goes On.
Time TBD: Daily COVID-19 briefing.
You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Happy Birthday in advance to PennLive President Cate Barron, who celebrates on Sunday. Congrats, boss. Enjoy the day.
Here’s an old school classic to propel you into the weekend. From A Tribe Called Quest, it’s ‘Can I Kick It?’
Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Well, this might be the best news we’ve heard all week. The NHL is reportedly mulling a 24-team playoff to close out the 2019-2020 regular season. Bleacher Report has the story.
And now you’re up to date.