$1,000,000 in federal funds given out as grants through partnership between Ontario County Economic Development Corporation and Finger Lakes Visitors Connection.

Before the pandemic, Ontario County employed more than 4,000 people in the tourism and hospitality industry and brought in hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local taxes.  When the pandemic hit, businesses closed which put many people out of work.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (the CARES Act) passed by the federal government back in March of 2020, created funds to help businesses that were negatively impacted by the pandemic.  One of the hardest hit industries across the country was the tourism and hospitality industry. 

“Just prior to the pandemic we had made a very substantial investment in building a new multi-purpose barn. Although everything was in place to accept visitors indoors, COVID-19 put a huge crimp in those plans,” said Joe Hurley of Kettle Ridge Farm.

Kettle Ridge Farm is one of the applicants to receive funding from the “Visit Ontario County COVID Relief Program.” Hurley says the money the farm received is going back into hiring full-time staff members and will be invested in new equipment so that it can improve its maple and honey production and towards new kitchen equipment so that it can host more events.

By the spring of 2020, tourism and hospitality businesses were allowed to start to reopen across the state as part of the governor’s phased reopening plan.  Each day the health department and governor announced different restrictions depending on where in the state you lived, or the type of business you operated. Since there was not one set of rules for everyone across the state, it made it difficult for some businesses to understand what they could do.

“What was allowed yesterday wasn’t allowed today,” said George Aldrich of Reinvention Brewing.  “We had to change from a business that did primarily on-site sales to off site and to-go sales.  This meant we had to invest heavily in packaging options for our beer and completely change the way we thought about selling our product.”

Some of those challenges however, created new opportunities for businesses to get creative in how they use their space going into the future.

“Once we re-opened, we realized what a benefit our backyard space was, as it allowed people to still feel comfortable going out, while staying in the open-air environment.  We decided early on that we wanted to improve out outdoor experience,” said Aldrich.

Reinvention Brewing is another applicant to receive grant funding. Aldrich says the money his brewery is receiving will be going towards its operating costs and the money saved will be put towards expanding Reinvention’s outdoor seating area to include a beer garden.

There continue to be other opportunities to apply for assistance. The New York State Tourism Return-to-Work Grant program is money to for-profit and not-for-profit organizations that increase their staff number between now and June 30 compared to last October 1 to December 31. A final application deadline is set for June 30, 2022. For more information, email: TourismReturntoWork@esd.ny.gov