WEST SPRINGFIELD, MA (WGGB/WSHM) -- Governor Charlie Baker has doubled funding for the Streets & Spaces Emergency Grant Program, a grant funding sidewalk improvements to help businesses during the pandemic.

Baker has also extended the permit for outdoor dining. Restaurant owners told Western Mass News this is good news for business.

Baker, on Thursday, announced the doubled funding for the Streets & Spaces Emergency Grant Program. He said he hopes the grant will extend the outdoor dining season.

The program, through MassDOT, funds street and sidewalk improvements to help local businesses and create more space during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt told Western Mass News the town was denied initial funding through the program, but now with another round of money, the city will not give up on helping local businesses.

"We will re-examine it and see what’s changed over the past few months, see what’s worked and hasn’t worked and reapplied again," Reichelt said.

He told us the town took matters into their own hands this summer to make sections for outdoor dining.

"It’s been successful. We’ve heard good things from restaurants," he said. "They’re getting as much business as they can hope for."

Over at bNapoli Italian, the restaurant owner, Jerry Moccia, said his outdoor dining area made a huge impact on the business.

"Without it, it would probably be a little difficult," he said. "People feel very comfortable outdoor as we opened. We felt like people were more comfortable outdoor than they were indoor."

With fall fast approaching, he said they are already starting to plan for colder temperatures.

"Some space heaters are coming in for the winter, so as long as the weathers pretty nice, I think people will still dine outdoors," Moccia added.

But that winter weather is something Reichelt said is concerning, not knowing how much longer outdoor dining can survive.

"As it gets colder, the likelihood of folks, even with heaters, will want to be outside is going to shrink," he said. "There may be people that will sit with a ski jacket on the outside to watch the game as they eat wings and beer, that’s certainly possible."

Applications to receive money through the program will be allowed through September 29. In total, the program has given over $7.7 million to fund 91 projects in the state.

Copyright 2020 Western Mass News (Meredith Corporation).  All rights reserved.

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