PPL Foundation announces $185,000 in Powering Equity grants

The Lehigh Carbon Community College Foundation, the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center and the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley were just some of the recipients of $185,000 grants recently announced by the PPL Foundation. 

The Allentown-based foundation made a total of 24 grants to nonprofits in its coverage area, all aimed at building stronger communities. 

In all, the PPL Foundation said it expects to award nearly $1 million in grants this year to support its focus areas: education; diversity, equity and inclusion; and sustainable communities. 

Funds from the first round of grants will be used to facilitate community conversations on diversity and inclusion, improve equity in access to higher education, and support innovation and entrepreneurship among underrepresented residents in our communities. 

“Through its grants, the PPL Foundation invests in innovative approaches to address critical social challenges and help build stronger, more sustainable communities,” said Ryan Hill, president of the PPL Foundation. “We’re proud to support nonprofit organizations working to improve lives and promote greater equity and inclusion in the communities we serve.” 

The most recent round, Powering Equity grants were made in amounts ranging from $2,500 to $15,000. 

The Foundation’s next round of grants will be Empowering Communities grants and will be focused on enriching the vitality of the community through programs that support environmental stewardship and education, economic development and workforce development. 

Applications for Empowering Communities grants are being accepted through June 15. More information can be found at  www.pplcares.com. 

Chamber Foundation Grant Program open for applications

The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce is reminding businesses and organizations in the region that the Lehigh Valley Main Street Foundation Grant Program is open and taking applications. 

The Chamber Foundation’s mission is to improve Main Street areas in the Lehigh Valley through targeted investments in community development revitalization programs, facade improvements, streetscape designs, urban planning, event promotion, sidewalk beautification and other improvements to our downtowns and urban centers.  

According to the GLVCC, the program originated as the Citizens Christmas Committee in Bethlehem in 1985.  

The Bethlehem Area Chamber Foundation sold Christmas Seals to fund holiday decorations on Main Street.  

When the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber merged with the Bethlehem Area Chamber of Commerce the idea was expanded into the current grant program. 

Over the last fifteen years, the foundation said it has contributed over $1 million in beautification projects, scholarship programs, Covid-19 relief for small businesses and other funding initiatives throughout the Greater Lehigh Valley.   

Proposals are due by May 31 at: https://www.lehighvalleychamber.org/mainstreetlehighvalley.html 

Lehigh Valley college gets new funding for manufacturing training programs

Northampton Community College in Bethlehem has received $336,024 in new funding to support manufacturing programs, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Rick Siger announced Wednesday. 

Two Manufacturing PA Training-to-Career (MTTC) grants were awarded to Northampton Community College. The school’s Industrial Skills for Manufacturing training program received $199,996, and the Precision Machine training program was granted $136,028. 

Siger visited the Bethlehem-based college on Wednesday and spoke of the “enormous impact” the training programs were having on students. 

“The people in these training programs are learning valuable skills that prepare them to enter the workforce and build strong, sustainable careers,” Siger said in a statement. “The investment that the Shapiro Administration is making here at Northampton Community College is an investment in Pennsylvania’s economic future.” 

The college’s Industrial Skills for Manufacturing training program curriculum includes introduction to manufacturing, workplace safety, measurement, blueprint fundamentals, basic electricity, electric relay control/programmable logic controllers, and mechanical maintenance concepts.

The aim of the Precision Machining training program is for students to learn and master the skill sets to safely and effectively operate the typical machines found in manufacturing environments. The career exploration components of the program will see students identify and align personal strengths and interests with manufacturing occupations to better understand the educational requirements, regional demand, and salaries for each.

Projects that result in short-term work-readiness, job placement, or the advancement of manufacturing are supported by the Manufacturing PA Training-to-Career grants program. The program works with area manufacturers to identify and teach essential skills for entry level applicants seeking manufacturing employment, engage youth or those with barriers to career opportunities in manufacturing, and or advance capacity for local or regional manufacturers.

Lauren Loeffler, vice president of Workforce Development, Northampton Community College, said the school is delighted to expand its relationship with DCED.

“Their support of these programs has been instrumental in helping our students, our college, and local employers to grow and move forward,” said Loeffler. “These high priority occupations are critical to the success of these businesses and our local economy long-term.”

More than 560,000 Pennsylvanians are currently employed in the state’s manufacturing industry.

Pocono tourism grants available

The Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau has announced the opening of applications for the Carbon County Room Tax Allocation Committee (RTAC) to apply for tourism-related projects. 

Interested non-profit organizations in Carbon County are encouraged to apply for funding by April 30, for awards to be disbursed by June 30, or apply no later than September 30, 2023, for disbursement to be awarded Nov. 30, 2023. Applications can be submitted  online or by mail. 

The RTAC will evaluate all applications and recommend funding to the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, Inc. (PMVB) for final approval. Invoices from vendors for approved marketing expenditures will be sent directly to PMVB for payment up to the amount funded by the RTAC subject to payment guidelines established by the PMVB. According to ACT 18, the funds can only be used for marketing projects to promote tourism in the County. Projects that include construction or other non-marketing related activities do not qualify. 

Funded program recipients may be required to submit a summary of all expenditures and project details to the RTAC within 12 months of the conclusion of the funded project. PMVB branding guidelines will be provided to each program. 

For more information or to download the application visit the Carbon County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC) website 

Pa. to receive federal funding to expand broadband access

Federal funding in the amount of $200 million is being provided to expand broadband in unserved and underserved areas of Pennsylvania. 

The Broadband Infrastructure Grant Program was announced Wednesday by Pennsylvania Broadband Development Authority Executive Director Brandon Carson. The program will begin accepting applications this May and will provide funding to businesses, non-profits, local government, and economic development organizations. 

Application guidelines will be posted on the authority’s website on April 10, and the application process will open on May 10. 

As many communities in Pennsylvania lack access to high-speed internet and many more cannot afford it, a digital divide has been created between those who have internet access and those who lack access. Gov. Josh Shapiro has made extending and expanding access to broadband across the state and connections more affordable and reliable a top priority of his administration. 

The Pennsylvania Broadband Infrastructure Program is funded through the Capital Projects Fund and will fund line extension and development projects, along with large-scale regional infrastructure projects. 

Projects must deliver upon completion service that meets or exceeds symmetrical download and upload speeds of 100 Megabits per second, prioritization going to fiber-optic deployment. To ensure continued operation, projects must also include a viable sustainability strategy to maintain, repair, and upgrade networks. 

“The authority is pleased to provide this funding to achieve last-mile connections and increase speed for underserved and unserved regions in Pennsylvania,” Carson said in a statement. “This is the first grant program the authority is offering, and we look forward to seeing the impact it makes as we work to close the commonwealth’s digital divide.” 

Program requirements include the following: 

  • Affordability: Applicants must participate in the Affordable Connectivity Program and will be requested to describe and document their digital equity efforts to ensure low- to moderate-income households in the proposed project area will have sustained and affordable access. 
  • Grant amounts: The minimum request considered will be $500,000 and the maximum may not exceed $10 million. 
  • Labor: The Pennsylvania Prevailing Wage Act may apply to projects funded under this program. Prevailing Wage requirements are applicable to grants for construction, demolition, reconstruction, alteration, repair work, renovations, build-out and installation of machinery and equipment of more than $25,000. 
  • 25-percent match: Federal, state, or local funding received by the applicant is eligible towards the match requirement. 
  • Universal coverage: Applicants are required to ensure that all projects either achieve or are part of a plan to achieve universal broadband for the locality or region. 

The application process closes July 10, at 11:59 p.m. Grants are expected by the authority to be awarded by the end of 2023.

Shapiro Administration looks to boost apprenticeships, construction trades

An additional round of grant funding to create more opportunities in Pennsylvania apprenticeships and construction trades was announced Monday by the Shapiro Administration. 

The additional $1 million round of grant funding was announced by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry (L&I). The funding is being made available to Pennsylvania registered apprenticeship programs to expand opportunities, promote diverse talent, and reach underrepresented populations withing the building and construction trades. 

Applications are due by 5 p.m. on April 26, 2023. 

L&I Acting Secretary Nancy Walker said her department is committed to serving the state’s workforce by creating more opportunities and pathways to success in apprenticeship programs. 

“Pennsylvania’s economic future depends on a well-educated and highly trained workforce,” Walker said in a statement. “These grants will open the doors of opportunity to more Pennsylvanians and grow our economy – a key priority of Governor Shapiro’s budget proposal.” 

Gov. Josh Shapiro’s budget proposes a $23.8 million investment in workforce training and apprenticeship programs and strengthening skills-building programs that lead to family-sustaining wages. As a workforce development strategy, registered apprenticeships have a track record of success in advancing workers’ careers but are behind in serving populations that are underrepresented. 

In 2022, women represented just 13% of the completed Registered Apprenticeships and 15% of new apprentices, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Women comprised just 10.9% of the construction industry in 2022. 

L&I’s Apprenticeship and Training Office (ATO) was established in 2016 and is responsible for guiding and promoting the compliance and expansion of registered apprenticeship and pre-apprenticeship programs. The ATO supports 868 unduplicated program sponsors and 1,573 occupation-specific registered apprenticeship programs across Pennsylvania.

New funding available for historic small restaurants

Restaurant owners across the U.S. know the impact that the “Backing Historic Small Restaurants Grant Program” can have on their community. 

Over the past two years, 50 historic restaurants have collectively received $2 million, and their owners have used the grant funds to make improvements to their businesses that have led to positive impacts on their surrounding areas. 

Restaurant owners have acclaimed the first two installments of the grant as being uplifting for the entire community, their neighbors raving about the preservation work. The grants have given owners the opportunity to update their establishment, impressing visitors, and increasing their number of dine-in customers. 

The third installment of the “Backing Historic Small Restaurants Grant Program” was announced Thursday by the National Trust for Historic Preservation and America Express. The grant will see $1 million in funding shared by 25 recipients across the country. Grants are funded by American Express and administered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Each grant recipient will receive $25,000. 

To be eligible for a grant, independent small restaurants must operate in historic buildings or neighborhoods, contribute to their neighborhood’s history and identity, and have a diverse story about cuisine and community in the U.S. Restaurant owners can submit formal grant applications through 11:59 p.m. ET on March 12, 2023. The deadline is the same for community members planning to submit nominations. 

“We’re proud to give small restaurants the resources they need to grow their businesses and continue their legacies for years to come,” American Express Vice President Community Affairs Alice Lin Fabiano said in a statement. 

Backing Historic Small Restaurants is part of American Express’ Backing Small initiative, which focuses on supplying financial support and additional resources to help small businesses meet crucial needs. The Backing Small initiative has $17 million in funds committed through 2024 to support underrepresented and financially vulnerable small business owners and entrepreneurs. The initiative includes grant programs, mentoring support, and technical assistance.