Written by Perry Hazeltine, Lancaster City. This piece was first published here, the LancasterSpeaksUp.com blog, on November 4, 2021 with permission from the author. It has been submitted to LancasterOnline/LNP for consideration as a Letter to the Editor.
The roughly $106 million that Lancaster County received from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) is intended to make whole the families and communities devastated by the economic fallout of the pandemic. Essential workers, caretakers, and restaurant workers of Lancaster lost their jobs and now struggle to pay their bills and face the threat of eviction. Yet, incredibly, our county commissioners have downplayed the need for the money and are sitting on it as Lancaster families suffer.
Clearly, the commissioners need our help to see where the money can be used. Let’s start with one of Lancaster County’s major problems—the affordable housing crisis, which pre-existed but was made worse by the pandemic. A household is considered cost-burdened if they pay more than 30% of their income for housing. Among extremely low-income households in Lancaster County, 82% of households are cost burdened. Here are just a few ways the commissioners could allocate the ARP funds to help the households:
- Affordable Housing projects face substantial funding shortages due to pandemic-caused rises in construction costs. Funds could go towards filling gaps caused by these rising costs.
- Use the funds to address long-standing challenges in financing and repairing existing affordable housing.
- Fund an increase in staff for reaching out to hard-to-reach tenants to help them apply for Emergency Rental Assistance.
Join me in demanding that the commissioners create a public input process. We cannot count on them to act quickly and effectively in meeting the needs of Lancaster families.
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