Major Boost for Lycoming County as $1.1M Repair Grants Announced
Lycoming County homeowners are soon to receive a welcome aid package of over $1.1 million, destined to assist in critical home repairs and improvements. The county commissioners have approved the Whole Home Repairs Grant Program Agreement, which will usher in these much-needed funds to help local residents create safer and more livable homes.
This agreement with the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) allows for the distribution of $1,103,133, originating from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). These funds are mandated to be utilized by the end of 2026, providing a generous timeframe for residents to secure the aid they need for vital home renovations.
According to Rachelle Abbott, the chief operations and planning officer at STEP Inc., the main aim of the program is to address and rectify issues directly impacting a home’s habitability. From comprehensive weatherization to essential structural alterations, these changes will bolster energy efficiency, satisfying one of the program’s key requirements.
Aiding the broader community, the initiative also encompasses a workforce development component. Abbott expressed excitement about the potential partnership with the Clean Energy Center at Penn College, which could offer invaluable training for those interested in housing construction.
To be eligible for this program, applicants must be homeowners. A thorough assessment conducted by STEP will identify needs based on safety, health, weatherization, and habitability. While the maximum financial assistance per household is capped at $50,000, Abbott emphasized that not all households would necessarily receive the maximum amount.
The focus of this program in Lycoming County is on homeowners, who will receive these funds in the form of grants. The distribution process will not entail direct payments to homeowners; instead, the county will appoint private contractors to carry out the necessary repair work.
Applicants for these grants will be chosen from the existing Lycoming County unmet needs list, which comprises individuals in need of home support. The selection process involves an income-based eligibility assessment and a thorough audit of the homes to ascertain their specific needs. Individuals qualifying for the grants typically earn less than 300% of the area median income. Homeownership is the primary requirement, meaning both families and senior citizens are eligible to apply.
While this new program is still in its early stages, the wheels are in motion. The county has inked the contract with DCED and is awaiting the returned signed contract. Future steps include establishing an agreement between STEP and the county, followed by the issuance of a Request for Proposals (RFP) to identify suitable contractors.
Jenny Picciano, a community/lead planner with the county’s department of planning and community development, envisions that the initial rollout of the program will take place by late summer. She emphasized that it’s a new venture for the county, requiring new protocols and the recruitment of contractors to handle the construction work.
Interestingly, the DCED plans to continue this program beyond its initial year, using other funds to sustain it into the future, according to Picciano. Thus, this initiative promises not only to bring immediate relief but also to instigate a long-term beneficial change for Lycoming County homeowners.