Tourism is a priority in Carbon County.

That's why county officials created the tourism grant fund after they implemented the 3 percent hotel tax in February 2007.

During the county commissioners' meeting on Thursday, the board unanimously voted to approve the release of funds under a memorandum of understanding between Carbon County and the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau that supports the grant initiatives in Carbon County. The memorandum of understanding also authorizes the release of $39,000 from the Hotel Room Excise Tax fund for the county's tourism grant.

Commissioner Wayne Nothstein, chairman, said that the grants help the tourism industry, which is a large industry in Carbon County.

"We're trying to help all these organizations to bring people in," he said. "A lot of the businesses are just barely surviving, so anytime we can give to any of the organizations to help with advertising to increase their incomes, it's great."

A total of 15 nonprofit organization projects will benefit from the ongoing grant during this round of funding. The county distributes the grant twice a year.

To date, Carbon County has distributed approximately $350,000 to nonprofit organizations to help promote tourism.

The county receives a total of 50 percent of the hotel tax. Of the 50 percent, Carbon County receives 20 percent, which it uses for improvements to Mauch Chunk Lake Park; 28 percent is put into the grant fund; and 2 percent goes toward administration fees.

The remaining 50 percent goes to the Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau.

This grant round's recipients are:

Ÿ Nic and Eileen East Art Foundation: $250.

Ÿ The Summit Hill Heritage Center: $250.

Ÿ The Summit Hill Community Improvement Organization: $2,000.

Ÿ Carbon County Lion/Lioness Fair Association, Inc.: $4,000.

Ÿ Accommodations Subcommittee Tourism and Heritage Committee of CCCC: $3,000.

Ÿ Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce Jim Thorpe Birthday Celebration: $2,500.

Ÿ Anita Shapolsky Art Foundation: $400.

Ÿ Summit Hill Historical Society: $500.

Ÿ Mauch Chunk Museum and Cultural Center: $300.

Ÿ The Bach and Handel Chorale, Inc.: $500.

Ÿ Ukrainian American Heritage Foundation with ODWU: $250.

Ÿ Carbon County Chamber of Commerce: $16,500 for countywide advertising.

Ÿ Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce: $5,325 for newspaper, magazine, radio and print promotions.

Ÿ Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce Winterfest 2012: $1,000

Ÿ Jim Thorpe Chamber of Commerce Jim Thorpe 2012 brochure: $2,175.

The Carbon County Hotel Excise Tax, which includes a 3 percent tax on room rentals in hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, and resorts in the county, was signed by the commissioners in 2007.

The tax had been under negotiation since 2004, when commissioners voted down Pocono Mountain Visitors Bureau's original proposal of a 20 percent revenue return on the money the tax would generate. They eventually negotiated a 50 percent revenue return to the county.

More information on how to apply for a hotel tax grant, nonprofit organizations who promote tourism can visit the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce office at 110 N. Third St., Suite 216, Lehighton; the Carbon County Commissioners' Office, located on the third floor of the courthouse annex, Jim Thorpe; or by visiting http://carboncountypa.org.