Jennings Details Plan for Expanding Programming, Building Capacity of the Nonprofit
In a virtual press conference held today by US Representative Susan Wild and Alan Jennings, Executive Director of the Community Action Lehigh Valley, it was announced that his organization will receive $1.8 million in supplemental funding under the CARES Act passed in late March. This funding should be in place in June and will allow Community Action to expand its programs, add an additional one and build the organization’s capacity to reach more low-income families in the region.
Alan Jennings, Community Action’s long-time executive director, provided details on the allocation of the funding, which can be spent through June, 2022. (See attached for specific allocations by dollar amount.) Protecting the agency’s gains in assisting inner-city, low-income and minority-owned business owners is the agency’s highest priority, since the best antidote to poverty is economic opportunity. Community Action has assisted more than 300 businesses get started and/or expand. Its federally-certified community development financial institution, The Rising Tide Community Loan Fund, will have more products and services available and will nearly double its staffing from three to seven.
Anticipating the recession and unprecedented unemployment, the agency is expecting foreclosures to spike again. Following the 2007-2008 recession, the agency rescue 1,200 homeowners from foreclosure. The agency will add a staff position to be prepared to ramp that work back up to the level needed.
Community Action’s additional funding will also be committed to its ongoing neighborhood revitalization efforts in South Bethlehem and the Slate Belt. New funding will be used to start a similar effort in the neighborhoods near Liberty High School on Bethlehem’s North Side.
The agency will expand its programming directed at preteen girls. The program, known as SHE, is designed to teach girls to avoid making the costly mistakes that can set them back for a lifetime. Also, the agency will expand its work in inner-city high schools helping its students get admitted to colleges and universities.
Community Action’s allocation of Community Services Block Grant funding has been stuck at $1.3 million for several years. The agency is able to leverage that support into an annual budget in excess of $25 million. The supplemental funding will more than double its CSBG.
The agency will commit some of its new funding to further building its capacity. It will hire its first-ever marketing director, add grant-writing staff and hire a volunteer coordinator to assist with managing nearly 1,000 volunteers.
Joining Wild and Jennings on the virtual press conference was Otis McNeil, owner of Custom Weatherization, who got his start through Community Action and its lending unit, and Fayola Georges, who just finished her freshman year at Pace University. Fayola participated in Community Action’s Generation Next college admissions work.
Jennings thanked Congresswoman Wild for her extra effort on behalf of the increased funding for the Community Services Block Grant. “These are, easily, the most trying times I have faced in nearly 40 years at Community Action,” he said. “Thanks to Susan’s understanding of the challenges regular folks face every day, Community Action has more resources to make the best of the world around us. We are grateful to Susan for standing up for the agency and the people we serve.”