Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

‘How do I get a grant for that?’

Monday, April 22, 2019 by The Press in Opinion

One of the best parts of being an administrator for the Northampton County Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) is being able to make positive change and that positive change is often made through grants. Grants are money that governments give to organizations to do something specific to benefit the community: install new picnic tables at a public park, preserve farmland, make a sidewalk handicapped accessible, etc.

As I travel around the county, a lot of constituents will approach me with a great idea and ask me how they can make it happen. When I mention our grant programs, a look of panic crosses their face. The county of Northampton gives away a lot of grant money every year, but obtaining one can seem intimidating. Applicants have to describe the nature of the problem they want to tackle, detail their plan, develop a budget, and explain why it would be in the county’s interest to finance the solution. For someone who’s never done that before, submitting an application can be almost paralyzing.

For 2019, DCED is projected to have $3.5 million of grant money available to support economic development, encourage community planning and to increase the quality of life for our residents. All we need now are some really great proposals from the people who live in our boroughs, townships and cities.

For the second year in a row, County Executive Lamont McClure has put together a Non-Profit Grant Writing Seminar. The next one will be held June 13 at 8:30 a.m., Alumni Hall, Northampton Community College.

The seminar will cover crafting a successful request, organizing a solid budget, and networking to find the best sources of funding. We are very fortunate to have presenters from DCED, Northampton Community College, the Department of Human Services and Lafayette College.

It’s important to train as many people as we can on the application process because, while Northampton County funds local projects, grant money may soon become available on a regional basis. Congressional representatives Matt Cartwright and Susan Wild are working towards Northampton County being included in a region encompassing the northeast portion of Pennsylvania. This would expand the number of grants an organization could qualify for, putting our area on the same funding table as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. Large grants that no one county could absorb could now become regional initiatives.

Our area is undergoing tremendous economic growth – a much different situation from 22 years ago when Bethlehem Steel closed down. Allentown is now the third largest city in Pennsylvania and the Greater Lehigh Valley ranks as the 65th largest economy in the nation. Northeastern Pennsylvania has become a destination site for world-class conferences and events. We enjoy pristine wilderness areas and miles of unspoiled beauty and soaring vistas. Protecting these lands while developing some into parks and recreational areas will require grants. Providing education, affordable housing and cultural opportunities for county residents are important for our quality of life and these are among Executive McClure’s highest priorities. It’s in everyone’s interest to have as many non-profits and municipalities trained to write grants and to handle the money properly when they receive it.

Grants require effort and dedication, but the benefits they provide to our communities can be priceless.

County of Northampton’s Grant Programs

Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) are funded with money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). These grants assist people with low incomes for help with affordable housing, infrastructure and antipoverty programs.

Hotel Tax grants are funded through the County’s tax on Hotels and Airbnb’s. Eligible projects enhance tourism and promote community development within Northampton County. Applicants have to go through a competitive process and the grants are distributed at the discretion of County Council.

Community Investment Partnership Program (CIPP) grants are used to improve the quality of life for the County’s older citizens and to create opportunities to stimulate economic development. The funding is obtained by the County’s share of revenue from table games under the PA Race Horse Development and Gaming Act.

Affordable Housing Program (AHP) grants are available to non-profits, public agencies, local governments and low-income housing providers to maintain or increase the availability of quality affordable housing. Funding comes from the State Real Estate transfer tax.

Frank Brooks is an Administrator at Northampton County’s Department of Community and Economic Development.