WEST ORANGE, NJ — When Essex County announced the recipients of this year’s funding for infrastructure improvements, community programs and building renovations—totaling $5.4 million distributed between 14 municipalities and 34 community organizations in 2020—the Township of West Orange was among the municipalities to benefit from the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG).

Through the CDBG program—funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by the Essex County Division of Housing and Community Development—the Township of West Orange received $345,100 to be split between various local projects.

Specifically, $191,500 was allotted to the reconstruction of Watchung Avenue; $40,000 was presented to Main Street Counseling Center; $49,000 was presented to the Bethany Center for Champions (Outreach for At-Risk Youth); and $64,600 was awarded for walkway improvements from Main Street to the parking yard.

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According to Essex County Executive Joseph DiVincenzo, Jr., a total of $1,787,411 was awarded this year to non-profit projects throughout the county. The county also awarded more than $440,000 in Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) and distributed more than $3 million to municipalities for specific government-sponsored projects as part of the CDBG program.

“Programs supported through the CDBG and ESG programs are direct investments to provide services that enhance our quality of life and help stabilize our neighborhoods by modernizing our infrastructure and supporting programs that assist vulnerable populations,” said DiVincenzo. “These federal grants enable us to upgrade our sidewalks and roads, enhance handicap access, address mental health needs, support food pantries and stimulate the overall development in our communities.”

According to the county, the $2,089,641 that was awarded to 14 municipalities and county programs in the Essex County consortium will be used to repave roadways, improve handicapped accessibility at public buildings, install new sidewalks, improve water and sewer lines, modernize park facilities and purchase a senior bus.

Grants ranged in size from $25,000 to the Borough of Roseland to install an ADA ramp in the First Aid Building to $370,500 to the City of Orange for improvements to the Colgate Park pool and Central Park, support to the Main Street Counseling Center and the purchase of a handicap accessible senior bus.

Essex County was provided with just over $1 million for program oversight, monitoring and administration. It was noted in a chart of all recipients, which can be seen above, that Bloomfield, East Orange, Irvington and Newark apply for CDBG funding independently and do not participate in the Essex County consortium, which Caldwell, Essex Fells, Livingston and North Caldwell did not submit applications this year.

A total of $1,787,411 was awarded directly to non-profit community organizations to support various projects such as after school enrichment, job readiness, youth mentoring and senior support programs, vehicle purchases, renovations to make facilities ADA-compliant and programs to raise awareness about foreclosures.

Non-profit grants ranged in size from the $7,800 awarded to Jewish Family Services of NJ MetroWest to $48,500 to Wynona’s House in Newark for Family Resource Center renovations. Essex County was provided with grants of $856,399 to repave roads, $79,200 to purchase a handicap-accessible senior bus, $91,200 for landlord and tenant counseling and $467,172 for a home improvement program. (A chart of all these recipients is also attached above.)

A total of $440,579 was awarded to eight local social service agencies through the ESG program. According to the county, funding will be used to renovate shelter facilities, support housing programs and homeless prevention services, and support a drop in center.

Grants range in size from $12,000 to the Salvation Army in Newark for a homeless prevention program to $73,000 to the YMCA of Newark and Vicinity for emergency shelter operations. Essex County was provided with a $33,043 grant to administer the program. (A chart of all the recipients is attached.)

“The beauty of the CDBG and ESG programs is their ability to fund a broad array of projects without affecting the budgets of the county, municipalities or organizations receiving the grants,” said Anibal Ramos, Director of the Essex County Department of Economic Development, Training and Employment. “This is a great example of a tax relief program that benefits all County citizens.”

Municipalities and non-profit organizations must meet specific criteria established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to be eligible for grant funding. The county noted that these funds have no impact on the Essex County budget and cannot be used as revenue in the county’s operating budget. 

Pictured above with DiVincenzo are (from left) Essex County Department of Economic Development, Training and Employment Director Anibal Ramos; Steve Margeotis from the Main Street Counseling Center of West Orange; and Essex Country Freeholder Patricia Sebold.