Two towns receive nearly $290K of federal grant funds

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MAPLEWOOD / SOUTH ORANGE, NJ — Thanks to the Community Development Block Grant and Emergency Solutions Grant programs, 13 Essex County municipalities and 36 nonprofit community organizations will receive approximately $5 million.

On Feb. 8, the county announced the grant winners; the CDBG and ESG programs are funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered through the Essex County HUD.

With a total of $5,037,376 allocated by the federal government to Essex County through the grant programs, Maplewood will receive $171,637 and South Orange will receive $118,216.

Maplewood’s funding will go toward installing an elevator at The Woodland to access the second and third floors, according to Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca.

“The project also calls for an external staircase from the second and third floors,” DeLuca told the News-Record last week via email. “The total cost is $500,000 and the CDBG grant will cover about 35 percent.”

South Orange will use its funds to completely redo the entrance to the Baird Community Center on Mead Street, making the new entrance ADA compliant.

The CDBG funding, approximately $118,000, will offset the cost of replacing the entrance ramp into the building with a ramp that complies with current Americans with Disabilities codes,” village President Sheena Collum told the News-Record in an email earlier this week.

Additionally, the radio reader program at EIES of New Jersey in South Orange was awarded $7,900. The program broadcasts individuals reading newspapers over the radio for those who have visual impairments.

While the grant recipients are grateful, so is the county, as these programs allow federal funding to benefit the county’s municipalities, which in turn benefits the entire county.

“Programs supported through the CDBG and ESG programs are direct investments to provide services that enhance our quality of life and help stabilize our neighborhoods by modernizing our infrastructure and supporting programs that assist vulnerable populations,” Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. said in a press release. “These federal grants enable us to upgrade our sidewalks and roads, enhance handicap access, address mental health needs, support food pantries and stimulate the overall development in our communities.”

And Essex County Department of Economic Development, Training and Employment Director Anibal Ramos pointed out that, thanks to these federal grants, recipients can address the chosen issues without having to divert funds from elsewhere.

“The beauty of the CDBG and ESG programs is their ability to fund a broad array of projects without affecting the budgets of the county, municipalities or organizations receiving the grants,” Ramos said in the press release. “This is a great example of a tax-relief program that benefits all county citizens.”

The individual municipalities that received funds certainly agree.

“Each year we have received between $125,000 and $175,000 for various projects including road reconstruction, new bathrooms at public facilities to accommodate people with disabilities, and ramps and electric doors at our libraries,” DeLuca said. “I hope the new administration keeps the CDBG Program intact. It is one of the few ways for communities to receive federal support for public improvement projects at the local level.”

The Community Development Block Grant Program, funded by the federal government through HUD, provides much-needed funds to assist with projects that benefit low and moderate-income individuals, senior citizens, and the disabled,” Collum said. “The funding is critical to assist municipalities in meeting the needs of their most vulnerable populations.

Photos Courtesy of Glen Frieson