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CAEDC to distribute tourism grants from Cumberland County hotel tax funds

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The Cumberland Valley Economic Development Corp. will distribute up to $75,000 in tourism grants this summer, using Cumberland County hotel tax revenues.

The hotel tax has been a source of controversy for county commissioners in the past year.

During this cycle, up to $75,000 will be awarded through the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau "to support marketing initiatives and tourism capital improvements," CAEDC said in a news release. The projects "must be designed to either increase visitation to Cumberland Valley or enhance the visitor's experience," the release said.

Marketing initiative grant projects can include the printing and design of experiential brochures, professional photography or video, the creation of experiential tours and/or agricultural experiences and advertising for major events. Tourism capital improvements include various types of signage, streetscape and interior improvements, upgrades for technology at attractions, outdoor and agricultural support, shuttles for visitors and outdoor recreation items that visitors can rent.

To be eligible for the tourism grant program, applicants must be located in Cumberland County and be a for-profit, nonprofit or governmental enterprise. The applicant must be able to match each grant dollar by half and requests may not exceed $25,000.

The 3 percent hotel tax generates $1.6 million annually and is distributed to CAEDC. Last month, commissioners approved changes to how the hotel tax revenues can be spent.

In a change that mirrors state law, commissioners clarified that hotel tax receipts can be spent for business travel, promoting conventions and associated travel in the name of tourism.

The hotel tax controversy began when the Army Heritage Center Foundation requested 20 percent of the hotel tax last July.

Commissioner Barbara Cross, who was sitting on the foundation's board, resigned from that position and abstained from voting. The Army Heritage Center request was voted down 1-1 with Commissioner Gary Eichelberger voting no and Commissioner Jim Hertzler voting in favor.

Hertzler followed up by asking for a review of the hotel tax funds. The ensuing audit turned up no problems with how they are used.

The deadline to apply for a tourism grant is July 25, and grants will be announced Aug. 29, the release said.

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