NORRISTOWN — The Montgomery County Recovery Office has released the draft funding recommendations for use of $161.4 million in Pandemic Recovery Funds for public comment.
The Draft Recovery Plan recommends investment into priorities identified by the community and consistent with the allowable uses of these funds, including:
• $32.4 million for housing, accounting for 325 new affordable housing units, funding creation of two new temporary housing facilities, preserving existing affordable units, and creating a foundation for sustainable creation of future affordable housing,
• $27.9 million for community spaces and services, constructing and improving centers housing multiple providers in impacted communities,
• $18.1 million supporting expansion and innovation across behavioral health operations and facilities, and
• $9.6 million for child care provider operational support, new child care service models, and study and analysis towards transformative adoption of best practices.
“The Draft Recovery Plan takes into account both community-identified priorities for supporting an equitable recovery post-pandemic, as well as the one-time nature of this funding source, to support projects that will have tangible impacts where the need is greatest,” said county Commissioners’ Chairwoman Val Arkoosh.
“We thank the community members who served as reviewers and we welcome the public’s feedback on the Draft Recovery Plan,” she said.
The plan follows a months-long community engagement process, through which the Recovery Office received 426 project submissions totaling $1.3 billion in funding requests, and 157 idea submissions. The plan includes funding for 110 projects and allocates all funding.
“The Draft Recovery Plan prioritizes investment into historically underserved communities and transformative projects or ideas with the potential for spurring long-term change across Montgomery County while also addressing historic disparities,” said commissioners Vice Chair Ken Lawrence.
“We thank all the hundreds of community organizations, nonprofits, school districts, businesses, municipalities, and individuals who took the time to submit projects and ideas.”
Affordable Housing — $32.4 million: The Draft Recovery Plan responds to the community’s prioritization for investment into more affordable housing options across the county, given the challenges to housing stability that the pandemic and related economic crises took on renters and homeowners. The plan includes investments supporting construction of 325 new affordable housing units for low- and moderate-income renters and homeowners. In order to encourage future development of affordable units, the Draft Plan also includes $5.5 million in seed funding for the Housing Opportunities Fund. This innovative public-private partnership will turn unused land, blighted or condemned properties, and/or hotels for sale into affordable rental housing.
The Draft Recovery Plan also includes a $500,000 expansion of the down payment assistance program for first time homebuyers, and a total of $5.8 million to support renovation of existing public and privately owned affordable units.
Finally, the Draft Recovery Plan allocates a total of $6.8 million for short-term housing for single adults experiencing homelessness, including costs associated with the relocation of the Coordinated Homeless Outreach Center that closed in July 2022.
Behavioral Health — $18.1 million: As a result of the pandemic’s significant and persistent impact on resident mental health, the Draft Recovery Plan supports programming into mental healthcare access across the county.
The plan sets aside $5 million for school-based behavioral health services, which will enable school districts throughout Montgomery County to access funding to hire staff through a program coordinated by County Recovery and Mental Health Offices. Funded projects additionally support child and adolescent art therapy, support services for rural older adults, and counseling services specific to LGBTQIA+ residents, among others. Finally, the Draft Plan sets aside $5 million for the creation of a behavioral health crisis response service center, allowing for a long-needed investment into the county’s ability to serve residents experiencing mental health crises.
Community Services and Facilities — $27.9 million: As part of its commitment to supporting an equitable recovery from the pandemic, the Recovery Office is recommending projects that will invest in historically underserved communities and provide facilities to house critical services and gathering spaces. The Draft Recovery Plan supports a new site for ACLAMO Family Centers in Norristown, which primarily serves the Latino/Hispanic population, and allocates $8.8 million for the establishment and renovation of facilities serving the Norristown community. Further, $5.25 million is recommended for the creation of a community and wellness center specific to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. Finally, $5.5 million is recommended to support the YWCA Tri-County’s new site expansion in Pottstown, as well as other investments for centers across the county.
Child Care — $9.6 million: The Pandemic Recovery Fund program prioritizes child care centers and the early childhood workforce, given the impact on the industry throughout the pandemic. The Draft Recovery Plan funds $4 million in direct operational support for child care centers across the county through a program that will be coordinated by the County’s Recovery and Early Learning Resource Center offices. $3.3 million is allocated for the implementation of a novel in-home child care program supporting off-hours workers, and $1.8 million is spread across mentorship and domestic violence support projects.
The Recovery Office also received several “idea” submissions that spoke to the need for further investment into addressing the early childcare worker crisis, citing challenges in worker retention and pay, ongoing education and training, and ability to attract qualified workers to the field. In response, the Recovery Office is recommending that $500,000 be set aside for convening stakeholders in further research, strategic planning, and pilot programming to address these challenges.
Economic and Workforce Development — $14.4 million: In response to its outreach specifically to small, minority and women-owned businesses, the Recovery Office received several submissions requesting support for business operations and other needs. The Draft Recovery Plan allocates $2.7 million to fund small grants directly to improve women and minority-owned businesses, made immediately available to qualifying businesses that had already applied to the Pandemic Recovery Fund. Other qualifying businesses, with priority placed on the county’s qualified census tracts in Norristown and Pottstown, would also be eligible to apply for this grant program. The Draft Recovery Plan additionally provides $2.5 million across multiple projects to coordinate impactful investment in Norristown and Pottstown businesses.
Workforce development across multiple sectors, tuition assistance initiatives, and job marketing and preparedness mentoring projects are funded using $8.2 million included in the Draft Plan.
Food Security — $8.4 million: Project and idea submissions received through the Pandemic Recovery Fund process demonstrated a prevalent community need for investment in all aspects of the County’s emergency food infrastructure, including food distribution, food production, policy and strategy, and coordination across all partners. The projects funded in the Draft Plan represent a commitment on the part of County and community partners to improve and construct a more cohesive and productive system incorporating focus on root causes.
The Draft Plan funds projects that expand and improve the County’s food security infrastructure, including a new distribution warehouse, planned logistics and coordination services connecting different partners, and a new food policy council resource to develop cohesive strategies across agriculture, food security, and public health.
Public Health and Safety — $11.3 million: Reflecting the intent of the ARPA legislation, the Draft Recovery Plan includes multiple initiatives focused on improving Montgomery County’s public health and public safety infrastructure. $9 million in funded projects seek to improve emergency medical services workers training and pay, improve child and maternity health outcomes, assist firehouses experiencing pandemic-related financial losses, and analyze, study, and improve the overall emergency services system in the County. The Draft Plan additionally includes gun and domestic violence mitigation programs, COVID-19 monitoring and mitigation strategies, and access to digital health enhancement efforts.
OTHER INCLUDED PROJECTS
The Draft Recovery Plan also recommends more than $45 million supporting initiatives in multiple program areas including:
• $18.2 million for government services, including revenue replacement, essential worker retention and support, and service improvement projects;
• $8.1 million for premium pay for essential County workers;
• $5.6 million for public infrastructure, including lead water piping replacement in Pottstown and multiple projects across the Wissahickon watershed;
• $2.6 million for educational services and school building upgrades in qualified census tract communities;
• $1.3 million for social services, including projects providing violence prevention, clothing distribution, immigrant case management, college student support, and transgender assistance services, and
• $1.25 million to support community data resources and support non-profits impacted by the pandemic.
The public can provide feedback on the Draft Recovery Plan through July 29 before a final plan is presented for approval by county commissioners on August 18. The public can provide feedback during virtual town hall sessions at 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. on July 20, and/or by submitting comments online at www.montcopa.org/RecoveryOffice.