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United Way of Lancaster County


Commissioners: VisionCorps ‘Tech Lab’ meets ARPA criteria; three other applicants fall short

Lancaster County Government Center, 150 N. Queen St. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

Update (Wednesday, Oct. 12): On Wednesday, following through with the intent expressed in their discussion Tuesday, the Lancaster County commissioners approved $100,000 in ARPA funds for VisionCorps’ Tech Lab.

Previously reported:

The Lancaster County commissioners are poised to award VisionCorps $100,000 in federal pandemic funds to help the nonprofit set up a “Tech Lab” for its legally blind clients.

VisionCorps’ application for American Rescue Plan Act funds was one of four reviewed by the commissioners at their Tuesday work session. A resolution to approve the $100,000 disbursement is on the agenda for action Wednesday morning.

VisionCorps says the laboratory is part of a $1 million, five-year initiative to increase its training and assistance services. The ARPA dollars would go toward renovating space at the organization’s North Queen Street headquarters and outfitting it with screen readers, optical character recognition systems and other equipment to help vision-impaired individuals access information.

All three commissioners agreed the proposal met their criteria for projects that have significant community impact and do not allocate ARPA to cover operational costs.

The other three applications came from the Lancaster Public Library, Assets and Ephrata Area Social Services. The county’s ARPA committee reviewed them, and determined they did not meet the county’s parameters, Deputy Chief Clerk Tammy Moyer said. They were:

  • Lancaster Public Library: $500,000 for a business center, similar to the Duke Street Business Center, at Ewell Plaza, where it plans to relocate next year.
  • Assets: $150,000 to support its entrepreneurship training, consulting and lending programs.
  • Ephrata Area Social Services (EASS): $30,000 for a career development and job placement program for individuals with barriers to employment.

All four applications were submitted as workforce development initiatives, one of seven categories eligible for funding under the county’s guidelines.

The commissioners agreed with the review committee that the library’s business center, while valuable, doesn’t count as workforce development per se. The library was awarded CARES Act funding and receives annual support through the county’s grants to the nonprofit Library System of Lancaster County, Commissioner Josh Parsons noted.

The Assets and EASS applications primarily seek operational funding, and EASS did not identify any matching funds, a requirement under the county’s guidelines. If EASS were to secure partner commitments and resubmit, Parsons said he would consider approving ARPA for the technology portion of the nonprofit’s request — $4,000 for a tablet and computer.

Commissioner Ray D’Agostino said he’d like to see EASS collaborate with the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board, perhaps developing a program that could be rolled out to other regional nonprofit hubs. The core idea is worthwhile, he said: “Let’s fine-tune it.”