County seeks funds for home repair projects
By MARIEKE ANDRONACHE
Special to The Press
In the first order of business for 2023, Lehigh County Commissioner Geoff Brace announced Jan. 11 the county will be applying for a grant through the COVID-19 American Rescue Plan Whole-Homes Repair Act.
“The application will be submitted by the end of January,” Brace said. “We will get our $2.7 million.
“I offer a word of caution for folks. The county’s $2.7 million allocation is going to be limited in the number of properties funded.
“The maximum award per property is $50,000 ... that comes to about 54 projects.”
The COVID-19 American Rescue Plan Whole-Home Repairs Program is designed to “address habitability and safety concerns, provide measures to improve energy or water efficiency and make units accessible for individuals with disabilities.”
“Funds are to be allocated for homeowners whose income does not exceed 80 percent of the area median income, as well as make loans available to small landlords renting affordable units and securing those loans with a mortgage recorded against the residential property,” according to the program’s website.
In other matters, commissioners received an update from the director of administration health care and property, cyber, crime insurance’s office.
The administration of former Lehigh County Executive David Bausch eliminated post-retirement health care benefits for any new county employee hired on or after Jan. 1, 1987.
For those employed back to that date, they, along with their spouse, would receive the benefits at no cost.
There are currently 670 grandfathered medical retirees. They were presented in fall 2022 with an opportunity to move to the Freedom Medicare Advantage Plan, which provided them with the same benefits as before, but added coverage for vision, hearing and gym discounts.
Of those, 656 choose this option, while 14 decided to remain with Signature 65 Plan. This amounts to a savings of $550,000 with the change to a new plan for the county.
Travelers, the county’s insurance broker, decided on a new approach for 2023 in terms of cyber and crime coverage, by bundling them together.
There is also an increase in insurance coverage for the properties owned by the county.
The premium increase for these changes is $90,000 for this fiscal year.