Lebanon’s City Council has a plan to get more funding to local small business.
During this week’s Council meeting, Mayor Sherry Capello explained that the city can receive an extra $391,481 this year through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) if the additional funding is used in relation to hardships induced by COVID-19.
Council passed the resolution amending its annual plan for HUD’s CDBG program, putting into motion their small business assistance plan.
To protect the state’s residents by trying to control the spread of the communicative illness COVID-19, small businesses considered non-essential were closed earlier this year as a result of Gov. Tom Wolf’s mandate, Capello said.
“That changed the business world and has created incredible challenges for small businesses,” Capello said.
These one-time funds from the CDBG grant will be available to businesses that have an annual income of less than $1 million.
“This is particularly aimed at those businesses who could not access state or federal funds, who provide key services, but don’t have the ability to operate virtually,” Capello said.
The assistance program is three-tiered, Capello said.
If the business’ annual revenue is up to $250,000, it would be able to receive a $2,500 forgiveness loan. If the revenue would be between $250,001 and $500,000, they could receive $5,000. If the revenue would be between $500,001 and $1 million, the business could receive $7,500.
Businesses should be able to apply for the funding sometime before late June, Capello said, and those funds are expected to be dispersed by early July.
Because the coronavirus has been responsible for “non-recoverable losses,” the loan is recommended to be a forgiveness loan.
Business owners who apply will have to prove they need the working capital to re-start their business or need the funds for payroll, rent, or utilities.
The city will partner with Community First Fund, a private, independent nonprofit Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that provides capitol in places where it’s not readily available to help under-served communities.
The nonprofit organization will handle applications and help in directing the funds. Capello said Community First Fund will be “unbiased” in these decisions.
During the open application period, if there are more applications than money available, the city and Community First Fund will have to prioritize, Capello said.
“This is a wonderful opportunity that we can add those funds to support our small businesses in Lebanon,” said Council Chairman Wayne D. Carey. “I know a lot are struggling and this would be a big help and a big emotional support to know we support them.”
In another matter, Council adopted an introduction to an ordinance Monday evening to update its zoning by approving the City of Lebanon Zoning Ordinance.
“This will bring our zoning up to date,” Carey said. “It uses modern-day language and it takes away a lot of gray areas.”
The ordinance will divide the city into zoning districts with varying regulations and permitting or prohibiting the uses of land and watercourses, the construction or razing of buildings, as well as open areas to be left unoccupied. It also establishes provisions for the protection of several natural features.
To create the ordinance and look at the city’s needs, the city created a steering committee several months ago, Capello said, utilizing people who had knowledge of zoning issues.
The committee includes representatives from the Historical Society, the city’s planning commission, and the Latino community, Capello said.
Capello, also a member of the committee, had been employed as Chief Zoning Officer for the County of Lebanon some years ago, she said.
“The zoning will look at land use with the intent to be both more user-friendly and pro-economic development,” Capello said.
Carey said it was important to plan for the city’s future.
“We’re all stuck in this COVID-19 period, but this helps us move ahead,” Carey said. “We’re going to continue to grow as a city and to move ahead and no matter what we face, we’re going to find our way through this and be the kind of quality place we’ve always been.”
In other business, council approved an agreement with Metropolitan Edison to provide LED street lighting, upgrading 141 sodium vapor and 57 mercury vapor street lights located throughout the city.
“This is a continuing agreement with Met-Ed to upgrade and eventually, hopefully all the street lights in the city will be LED,” Capello said.
Council also authorized city officials to file a grant application with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) for a feasibility study on the site of the former Coleman Memorial Park/Lauther Memorial Water Complex.
The study could determine the best use of the area where the demolished pool had been situated in Coleman Park, the mayor said.
The city is hoping to get funding from a Marcellus Shale grant, but that outcome is currently unknown.
Installing a splash pad is one option for the former pool area, Capello said, but before making a decision, the DCNR recommended a feasibility study to get more input from the public.
In two more recreation-geared resolutions, Council authorized filing a grant application with the DCNR for the construction of a pavilion and restrooms at Coleman Memorial Park and for a connector trail in the park from 22nd Street to Ehrgood Drive.
The pavilion would be located near to the existing tennis courts.
Council also approved the filing of a grant application with DCNR for funding for Phase I improvements to the John E. Wengert Memorial Park in the city.
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