WILKES-BARRE — Bill Jones, President/CEO of the United Way of Wyoming Valley, Wednesday said the non-profit sector is vital to the health and well-being of the community.
And Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown held a news conference at City Hall where he announced his 9-Point Plan, that would see some of the city’s $37.1 million in yet-to-be received funding through the American Rescue Plan will go to non-profits, along with the entrepreneurial community, new and existing homeowners, social services organizations and more.
All told, the mayor said about $7.5 million will be allocated.
“We’re ready to go once we receive the funding,” Brown said. “When it arrives, we can start the next day.”
Brown said he had been approached by several residents seeking information regarding the American Recovery Plan allocation awarded to the City of Wilkes-Barre, and how the residents will benefit from these funds.
“Today, we will be providing details regarding several initiatives my Administration will pursue to assist residents who have been adversely effected by the pandemic in addition to providing assistance for new business startups and the purchase of primary residences within the City of Wilkes-Barre,” Brown began. “The roll-out of these programs is dependent on the Treasury’s final rulings and regulations and possible changes.”
Brown said more than $7 million in funding will go toward the following programs:
• Distribution of funds to nonprofit organizations — United Way of Wyoming Valley
• New business development fund — Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce
• Financial assistance program for resident households who have experienced negative economic impacts from the pandemic — Commission on Economic Opportunity
• Business rescue plan for ticketed venues — Diamond City Partnership
• Homeowner occupied improvement program — Wilkes-Barre City Grants Office
• Homebuyer closing cost and downpayment assistance — Wilkes-Barre City Office of Economic & Community Development
• Stormwater and sewer infrastructure projects — Wilkes-Barre City
Additional savings for residents:
• Reduction of garbage bag prices by $3 per package
• Reduction of parking meter rates from $2 per hour to $1 per hour
Jones said on behalf of the non-profit sector, the United Way is thrilled and grateful that the City of Wilkes-Barre is planning to allocate $1.1 million of its $37.1 million American Rescue Plan funding to support and strengthen the human service non-profit organizations in the city.
“Non-profit agencies employee staff, maintain properties, and most importantly, help people in need,” Jones said. “The city recognizes that as the pandemic lingers, this need has significantly increased and the mayor is passionate about wanting to use some of these resources to help others.”
Jones said the United Way will be administering the funds.
“We expect grants from the fund will range from $10,000 to $75,000,” Jones said. “Eligible 501(c)3 agencies must have a physical presence in the city, have a current audit, be in good standing with the PA Department of State and have been in operation before July 1, 2019.”
Jones said when the final regulations are released, any necessary changes to the program design will be made. Organizations will be able to obtain and complete an application by going to the United Way website — www.unitedwaywb.org. Applicants will have 30 days to apply. After that deadline, the United Way will review all of the applications and it won’t take long to get the funding to the agencies. We are hoping this all happens by the end of the calendar year.
Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce Executive Vice-President/Chief Operating Officer Lindsay Griffin said the Spark Wilkes-Barre Grant Program was launched to generate economic development activity in the region by facilitating the growth of new companies and relocation of existing businesses to the City of Wilkes-Barre.
“This program will provide financial incentives that correspond with the completion of free current and existing business development curriculum modules, provided by Wilkes-Barre Connect partners — pairing educational pathways with grant funding to help you successfully launch your business and ensure its sustainability in a Wilkes-Barre City location,” Griffin said.
Spark Wilkes-Barre is a grant program available to entrepreneurs, start-up businesses, or relocating businesses that can be used towards rent in year one of a lease at an approved location within the City of Wilkes-Barre, as well as reimbursable parking fees. The business applying for grant funding must be located in the City of Wilkes-Barre to be eligible for funding.
Also attending the news conference were: Wilkes-Barre City’s Grants Coordinator Mark Barry and Office of Economic and Community Development Director Joyce Zaykowski; Commission on Economic Opportunity Program Representatives Gretchen Hunt Greaves and Jennifer Warabak.
The $1.9 trillion financial aid package was signed into law earlier this year by President Joe Biden to help with the nation’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of the programs’ specifics discussed Wednesday still have to be worked out, including what portion of the overall funding will be allocated, Brown said.
City Council Chairman Tony Brooks attended the news conference with Councilman Mike Belusko.
”The Treasury Department’s approval can’t come fast enough,” Brooks said. “The home improvement program could be a game-changer in the neighborhoods, particularly for low income senior citizens, who could for instance, have their houses painted. And the home buyer program can help renters become homeowners.”
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.