by Marieke Andronache Special to the Bethlehem Press
In the first order of business of 2023, Lehigh County Commissioner Geoff Brace announced Jan. 11 that the county will be applying for the COVID-19 American Rescue Plan Act Whole-Homes Repair Act.
“The application will be submitted by the end of January. We will get our $2.7 million,” Brace said.
“I offer a word of caution for folks. The allocation is going to be limiting in the number of properties that get funded. The maximum award per property is $50,000. That comes to about 54 projects.”
The Whole-Home Repairs Program was designed “to help address habitability and safety concerns, provide measures to improve energy or water efficiency and make units accessible for individuals with disabilities.”
According to the program’s website, “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”.
Commissioners received an update from the Director of Administration Healthcare and Property, Cyber, Crime Insurance’s office.
The Bausch administration eliminated post-retirement healthcare benefits for any new county employee hired on or after Jan. 1, 1987. For those with an employment date up 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 the fall of 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. 656 of these retirees choose this option, while 14 decided to remain with Signature 65 Plan. This amounts to a saving 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 of $90,000 for this fiscal year.