The Star-Ledger

Essex County Officials Distribute $10.6M In Federal Funds To Local Groups

The Star-Ledger — Thursday, October 29, 2009

By Philip Read / The Star-Ledger

NEWARK — Albert Coutinho, sporting a bold red scarf with the insignia of his Ironbound Soccer Club, came to pick up the smallest check of the day, just $4,650.

But it didn't seem to matter to Coutinho, the club's founder and a sitting Assemblyman from the 29th District covering parts of Newark and Hillside. "One-thousand, two hundred kids," he said proudly of his club's impact. "One of the premiere soccer clubs in the country."

The cash was part of $10.6 million in federal funds, including $1.64 million in stimulus block-grant dollars, doled out during a crowded ceremony today at the county Hall of Records in Newark.

"This meeting is always well-attended. I don't know why," Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo Jr. quipped in the hall's ornate lobby with a gold leaf ceiling and about 70 visitors from non-profits and various branches of government.

The bulk of the money, $4.17 million, is the county's allotment from the federal Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG, program.

One of the biggest recipients was Orange, whose $620,675 award will go toward everything from an accessible elevator at the library ($56,525) to demolishing vacant buildings ($100,000) and boarding up vacant structures ($81,000.)

The next largest recipient, Montclair with $479,870, is to dole out its share to such government-sponsored entities as the COPE counseling center ($35,000) and the Interfaith Hospitality Network ($8,320), as well as reconstruction of Portland Place ($166,300).

The $1.64 million in block grant "recovery" money ranges from $35,000 in improvements to Glen Ridge's Borough Hall to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act to $193,353 for streetscape improvements to Orange's Central Avenue.

The $2.1 million in grants to non-profits includes ones for $43,600 to New Jersey Citizen Action for foreclosure prevention programs and $113,620 for counseling services at the Tenant Resource Center in East Orange. The biggest of the $270,248 in emergency shelter grants, $118,748, went to the YWMCA of Newark and Vicinity for renovations to its 225-bed shelter.

The biggest single "check" — for $2.45 million — was picked up by Benjamin Amos III, the county director for the community-action division of the Department of Citizen Services.

It is new money from the federal Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program, intended to provide rental assistance, help with utility bills and relocation services to get financially troubled people into new apartments. "A very big help," he said.

With the reading of each beneficiary's name, the large ceremonial checks were hoisted into the air, signaling the recipient to come toward. With some 30 non-profits alone called out, there was a lot of lifting from the likes of John Manganiello, a senior program coordinator. He didn't mind. "Why not? It feels good," Manganiello said.

Top Top | NJCA Homepage | NJCA in the News