Editor’s note: This story is part of a periodic review of projects on the Luzerne County U.S. bailout funding request list.
A wave of nonprofits responded to Luzerne County’s invitation for applicants interested in funding the county’s American Rescue, including some focused on helping businesses and the homeless, a review finds. submissions.
The Council has approximately $96.1 million remaining to be allocated from its $112.89 million U.S. federal bailout allocation.
A $15 million application has been collectively submitted by four county chambers of commerce — Back Mountain, Greater Hazleton, Greater Pittston and Greater Wyoming Valley — to establish the “Luzerne County Small Business Sustainability Grant Program.”
This program would provide two categories of recovery support to small businesses: short-term operational recovery and long-term functional sustainability, depending on the pre-demand.
Short-term funds would provide a cash injection to cover operational expenses, such as rent/mortgage, utilities, supplies, equipment and payroll, he said.
Long-term funds would help pay for investments to strengthen businesses for the future, such as cutting-edge technology, renovations to expand services, and e-commerce or marketing programs to encourage growth.
Applicants would be encouraged to purchase project goods and services from county businesses to increase stipend benefits, he said.
There are more than 6,000 small businesses in the county with up to 19 employees, and many have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, inflation, labor shortages, the rising wages and an unpredictable supply chain, he said.
“These challenges have caused a few businesses to close, but most are doing what they can to hang on. For these businesses, a little help can go a long way toward growth and progress for the future,” the pre-application reads.
The nonprofit Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resources Center Inc. in Hanover Township is asking the county for $250,000 to help small and medium-sized manufacturers.
This funding would provide up to 40 county-based manufacturers with up to 40 hours of free, hands-on consulting assistance on how to recover from the impacts of COVID-19 that continue to hamper their recovery, growth and sustainability. job creation, the pre-application said.
As of the third quarter of 2019, county manufacturers employed 16,742 county residents and offered an average annual salary of $56,862, more than $9,000 higher than the overall county average of $47,737, it said. he indicates.
There are currently 15,985 manufacturing employees in the county, he said.
These companies continue to face labor issues, supply chain disruptions, higher fuel and transportation costs, unpredictable price fluctuations and a myriad of other challenges, he said.
In downtown Wilkes-Barre, the Keystone Mission and Diamond City Partnership submitted a joint application requesting $5.2 million.
The Diamond City Partnership portion of the application requests a total of $1.2 million to provide funding of $400,000 per year for three years to expand the Clean and Safe Ambassador Program.
This funding would add five new ambassadors. In addition to cleaning, these workers would greet and direct people, answer questions, and report suspicious or illegal activity. Team members would wear uniforms, receive appropriate training and supervision, and work with City Police, the Keystone Mission and area social service professionals to connect at-risk people to the services they need, he said. he declared.
The remaining $4 million would help fund the Keystone Mission’s planned transitional housing in downtown Wilkes-Barre, which would provide both shelter and full access to resources to enable homeless people to lead productive lives. .
The pandemic’s major shift to remote working has reduced downtown Wilkes-Barre’s clientele by 80%, and the void has been replaced by an influx of homeless and at-risk people, according to the pre-application. .
“The result is an increased perception that downtown, the heart of the county seat, is unsafe,” he said.
Other cities of similar size facing these issues are tackling the problem by expanding their security teams, he said. The Diamond City Partnership already has a three-person team funded by the Business Improvement District focused on cleaning sidewalks, removing graffiti and sprucing up downtown with hundreds of flower baskets and planters, he said.
“We believe that expanding this team to include Safety Ambassadors will help address the increase in misbehaving people downtown and further damage the public’s perception of safety and to the convenience of downtown,” he said.
Among the other candidates:
• Also in Wilkes-Barre, Volunteers of America of PA is seeking $610,826 in county funding for a $1.35 million project to convert a deteriorating property at 130 E. Division St. to house at least six affordable one-bedroom independent living units and community/medical respite day space for the medically frail homeless, specifies its application.
• The Willow Foundation in Hazleton is seeking $565,250 for a $1.3 million expense to staff and operate an emergency day shelter for individuals and families experiencing or at risk of homelessness in the southern half of the county, its pre-application said.
• Dress for Success Luzerne County in Wilkes-Barre is seeking a total of $200,000 — $50,000 per year for four years — for its expenditures on support services, career clothing and job skills for women trying to re-enter the workforce. labor market. The non-profit organization serves low-income women who have experienced disruption in their lives due to the pandemic, unemployment, homelessness, domestic violence and incarceration, a-t -he declares.
The county administration solicited pre-applications from American Rescue at the request of some council members to ensure that no need or option was overlooked.
The county received $186.8 million in funding requests as a result — $171.58 million from more than 100 outside entities and $15.26 million from county government departments, the county’s acting executive said. , Brian Swetz.
The Council is currently reviewing the applications and has not publicly discussed how it intends to make a decision. The eligibility of projects must also be determined.