Majority of Hazleton area small businesses fear closing for good, survey says
Nearly 70% of small businesses in Greater Hazleton fear closing permanently if not given help to survive through the COVID-19 crisis, a local survey found.
Half of the 80 small businesses polled laid off employees and nearly 90% with storefronts have suspended operations.
Many applied for financial assistance, but did not receive these loans to sustain their businesses, according to the survey undertaken by the Greater Hazleton COVID-19 Recovery & Resiliency Task Force.
To assist them, the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Hazleton Alliance For Progress and task force members established the Small Business Emergency Relief Microgrant Program to bridge the gap until business can resume.


This crowdfunded donor campaign seeks to raise $75,000 from local people, customers, private corporations and the larger business community. The approach taps into a large pool of donors.
“The pivot to recover and resiliency for our area, especially small businesses, is now the focus of our work,” said Mary Malone, chamber president. “The emergency relief would be for small businesses in the Greater Hazleton area who complete an application.
“Grant amounts are micro between $500 and $1,500,” she said.
The microgrants program guidelines are under development, and applications will start being accepted May 18 with at least two grant rounds being awarded. The number and size of the grants will depend upon the amount of funds raised.
The program illustrates what the chamber of commerce does in the community, supporting its member businesses, said Attorney Steven Seach, chamber board chair.
“If we could bridge the gap for businesses and keep them afloat, we’re happy to be a part of this,” he said.
Small businesses work day to day, said Joseph Yannuzzi, executive director of the Civic Partnership, who has owned small businesses for 60 years in the community.
“You struggle every day,” he said.
When approached Krista Schneider, task force chair, about the microgrant program, Yannuzzi thought it was a great idea to help small businesses, which are the backbone of the community.
“We need small businesses,” he said. “It’s what’s downtown is all about.”
Yannuzzi pointed to the numerous businesses along Broad and Wyoming streets that may employ two or three people, but when you add them up that’s a lot of people.
Businesses surveyed say they need help with expenses, such as rent, mortgage and utilities to get them through.
“I think this microgrant program is a great idea,” Yannuzzi said.
The microgrants can be used for those business expenses, including employee wages and benefits, as well as new investments in websites, e-commerce platforms, delivery service, or personal protective equipment, as customer and employee safety are among their concerns businesses expressed.
The campaign has already raised a quarter of its goal with several lead corporate donors, including Cargill Meat Solutions, Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services, Lehigh Valley Health Network-Hazleton, the Hazleton Standard-Speaker and the Hazleton Rotary Club.
“Lehigh Valley Hospital-Hazleton understands and appreciates that small businesses are a key part of our local community,” said John Fletcher, president of LVH-Hazleton, which donated $2,500. “This disaster relief microgrant program will support many of our small businesses, especially those that have been adversely affected during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are happy to do what we can to participate in the economic vitality of our community through this effort,” he said.
Robert Mericle of Mericle real estate, which gave $5,000 to the fund, said small businesses provide important services to Greater Hazleton’s business parks, in which his company has developed millions of square feet of industrial space.
“We are proud to support the emergency relief fund and Hazleton’s small business community during this very challenging time in our nation’s history,” Mericle said in a statement.
Cargill, which employs nearly 1,000 people at a meat packing plant in Humboldt Industrial Park, gave $10,000.
The Standard-Speaker, which donated $1,000, saw the need in the community, said John Patton, general manager.
“These businesses are our partners,” he said. “They’re are readers. They’re are subscribers and they’re our advertisers.
“We wanted to be included in this to get the community back on its feet,” Patton said.
The Hazleton Rotary Club also wanted to help, because these small businesses are the ones that donate to club for its special events, such as the Wine and Beer Festival, said Alan Whitaker, president, said.
“Without their support our projects would not be successful,” he said. “Thus, we feel it is our time to help them, to thank them for everything they’ve done for us.”
At the big industrial parks, vans and trucks that regularly drive in and out bear the names of small local companies that provide goods and services from food deliveries to landscaping and repairs to cleaning.

Jim Cummings, vice president of marketing at Mericle, said support from small businesses is important t the long-term health of business parks, while the parks help sustain small businesses.
Across the country, Cummings said forecasters who track commercial real estate expect companies will want warehouse space as they expand online sales even after the pandemic passes.
People at home are getting used to the convenience of ordering online and having deliveries dropped at their doors.
Among small businesses who replied to the Hazleton survey, one-third have no website and only 17% sell online.
To help them, CAN BE and the Small Business Development Center at Wilkes University developed a series that guides small businesses as they develop and navigate social media.
Hazleton LaunchBox offers free seminars at which businesses can share tips on using social media. The LaunchBox also is starting an internship program for students who can help companies develop websites.
The task force is working on additional initiatives to help these small businesses.
Anyone interested in donating to the campaign can do so online via the website, https://www.patroncity
.com/hazletonsmallbusiness, or by sending a check directly to the Greater Hazleton Civic Partnership at 8 W. Broad St., Suite M-1490, Hazleton PA, 18201.
A printable pledge form is available on the alliance’s website, All donations are tax-deductable.
For more information on the survey or general questions on the fundraising campaign, can contact Malone at or Schneider at
Contact the writers:, 570-501-3589;; 570-501-3587…/majority-of-hazleton-area…