Bethlehem organizations could receive hundreds of thousands of dollars from a grant program by the city of Bethlehem known as the Community Recovery Fund.
Applications for the recurring grant program will open March 1. It seeks to invest in community organizations and those who are doing work to support the community with a focus on pandemic recovery.
On Feb. 1, Bethlehem officials hosted an informational webinar that further introduced the goals, timeline and types of organizations that can receive grants from the Community Recovery Fund.
During the webinar, Mayor J. William Reynolds said this fund is a vision for post-pandemic investments throughout Bethlehem and aims to help organizations become more proactive and avoid life-threatening situations for citizens.
Laura Collins, director of community and economic development for the city of Bethlehem, said this first round of the program will distribute up to $750,000 in grants.
According to the webinar, the fund will prioritize nonprofits and community organizations that serve marginalized communities such as low-moderate income households; LGBTQ+; Black, Indigenous and people of color; and unhoused and food insecure communities.
The city also identified 22 areas of need, including prevention of violence, economic development, climate justice, public communication tools, public health and senior services. Organizations that put forth initiatives or support these areas are considered eligible for grant money.
Collins said the city of Bethlehem fielded survey responses from Bethlehem residents between April and October of 2022 to identify the areas of need and understand who they were reaching.
“We asked residents to identify 10 of those (22 categories) that they would consider most pressing,” Collins said. “We also allowed for comments so residents could display their opinions.”
In an interview following the webinar, Maison Allen, grant administrator for the city of Bethlehem, said the priority categories identified are expansive.
“These priorities touch on a lot of different areas, and ultimately what they do is help community members in all different areas of their daily lives,” Allen said.
Janine Santoro, director of equity and inclusion for the city, said significant steps were taken to ensure a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion efforts.
She said the first part of their efforts involved looking at who they were serving and ensuring minority communities were being supported.
“There might be some projects that are good projects but they might not necessarily be focused on helping those that have faced the most distress in the past three years,” Santoro said.
Santoro said they were aware that many nonprofits are at a disadvantage because they do not have the money to afford a grant writer and usually have limited staff members.
She said having the fund guidelines and webinar available early helped to ensure a commitment to equity and inclusion, unlike previous funds in the past.
Collins said there are many goals that officials of the Community Recovery Fund are hoping to accomplish, which ultimately involves a commitment to COVID-19 recovery and establishing a mechanism for systemic change throughout the community.
Santoro said the funding process is a team effort, and though she often sees through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion, the administration is especially looking at COVID-19 recovery.
“The whole lens…is how are we making sure the communities are recovering in a way that is substantial?” Santoro said. “How do we make sure that there is something systemic in place? And how are the community organizations able to do this in a recurring way?”