Sen. Comerford secures money for chambers of commerce

  • State Sen. Jo Comerford

Staff Writer
Published: 8/2/2020 4:22:37 PM

Franklin County businesses hit by the COVID-19 pandemic may soon see some relief, thanks to funds earmarked for the region in a supplemental budget signed this week to fund relief efforts.

State Sen. Jo Comerford, D-Northampton, secured $250,000 in spending in the budget, $110,000 of which has been earmarked for the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, according to a press release. The Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce will also receive and distribute $110,000 for businesses in Hampshire County. The remaining $30,000 will support the Greenfield-based DIAL/SELF Youth & Community Services.

Comerford plans to work with the respective chambers of commerce to use the money to meet the key needs for the region, including child care, business reopening costs, assistance to significantly impacted sectors, purchasing of personal protective equipment and other COVID-19 recovery needs.

“We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is also an economic gut punch and our small businesses and child care sector are suffering terribly,” Comerford said. “When I had an opportunity to secure funds, I thought about a partnership with chambers of commerce and business associations in the region, and my hope is that this would be a financial shot in the arm to help these businesses deal with the added complexities and costs of COVID-19.”

Comerford noted “none of this would have been possible” without the work of Diana Szynal, executive director of the Franklin County Chamber of Commerce, and Vince Jackson, executive director of the Greater Northampton Chamber of Commerce.

“None of this would have been possible at my level, at the state level, if we didn’t have folks like Diana and Vince stepping up and doing the hard work of administering this,” Comerford said.

Szynal said the chamber is “so appreciative” of the senator’s efforts.

“We plan to disburse funds across several sectors that have felt a heavy blow during the COVID-19 pandemic including child care, lodging, arts and culture, and tourism,” Szynal said. “We look forward to assisting over a dozen businesses with funds that will have a direct, immediate and meaningful impact on their recovery.”

Also included in the $250,000 is a $30,000 earmark for DIAL/SELF Youth & Community Services for the expansion of its youth homelessness prevention work, which has become especially critical during the pandemic.

“DIAL/SELF is an organization I’ve long admired,” Comerford said. “They’ve really stepped up to create housing for youths who were formerly homeless. They’ve charted an ambitious direction forward.”

Comerford said it’s important to note that while the secured funds will help, “this isn’t enough.”

“It’s not everything that’s needed,” she said. “But my hope is that it’ll be some modest help in the region.”

Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-772-0261, ext. 263. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


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