Blake Announces $1.5 Million in Grants for Two Area Projects

SCRANTON, September 13, 2018 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today announced that two area projects will receive $1.5 million in state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grants.

“Our region continues to see the great benefits of the RACP program and how state funding coupled with private investment can positively impact communities,” Blake said. “I appreciate Governor Wolf’s continued dedication to redevelopment, job creation and education.”

In Scranton, a development project in the 600 block of Wyoming Ave. received $1 million to convert an abandoned six-story warehouse into professional office space.

“The City of Scranton has a pressing need for modern, professional office space in the downtown footprint,” Blake added. “This project will transform a previously abandoned block and attract new and growing business into downtown Scranton.”

Also in Lackawanna County, Carbondale Area School District received $500,000 to upgrade HVAC, lighting and security at the school district.

“Governor Wolf has been a powerful advocate for public education and this grant funding will not only result in future cost savings for Carbondale Area, but it will also allow the district to utilize more of their available funds in the coming years on instruction and other education programs,” Blake said.

RACP is a commonwealth grant program administered by the Governor’s Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic and community development improvement projects.  The program requires a dollar for dollar match in non-state funding in the project and all project related expenses must be incurred and satisfied in advance of approved reimbursements from the state.

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Senate Hearing Focuses on Career Readiness, Workforce Development

Senate Hearing Focuses on Career Readiness, Workforce Development

DUNMORE, April 19, 2018 – State Sen. John Blake today hosted members of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee at Penn State Scranton for a wide-ranging discussion on career readiness and workforce development.

The public hearing, titled “Our Students, Our Workforce and the Jobs of Tomorrow,” was led by Senate Policy Committee Chair, Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Northampton), and featured three panels with expert testimony on career readiness, regional job projections and the skills gap in the workforce.

“We need to do a better job here and in Harrisburg to bridge the gap between our education system and our workforce to ensure that our students are qualified for the jobs that will be available to them,” Blake said. “I appreciate my colleagues willingness to come to our area and continue the dialogue we have been having for years on workforce development and job training with our regional leaders in the business and education communities.”

Blake has introduced Senate Bill 714, which would establish a state-level council dedicated to career readiness to help improve transition from K-12 to postsecondary to the workforce, as well as ensure that programs are aligned with current or anticipated business and industry needs.

“Over the past few sessions, Senate Democrats have sponsored numerous bills aimed at internship and apprenticeship credits, growing a skilled workforce and training people for the jobs that are actually out there,” Boscola said. “We must continue to invest in proven initiatives that will educate, train or re-train workers for today’s jobs.”

The Senators heard a recurring theme that jobs are available but there needs to be a stronger focus on job training and education in the workforce.

“The skills gap conversations taking place across Pennsylvania are echoed in every other state in America: our current system is not producing the students that exhibit the qualities that employers need,” said Team Pennsylvania president and CEO Ryan Unger. “Students and their families want the same end result as employers want: graduates who are ready, willing, and able to take on the careers of tomorrow.”

Locally, UM Technologies in Moosic has seen significant growth but has been unable to hire for their open positions locally due to the skills gap.

“At UM Tech, we have expanded our hiring footprint and successfully grew our overall staff by 100% over the last 24 months, but only one-quarter of that growth was able to happen locally,” added UM Technologies president and CEO Scott Stiner. “The greatest challenge has been finding enough available resumes with the progressive skillsets to fill our open positions.”

Other participants in the public hearing included Dr. Kirk Wiliard, Executive Director of Career, Technical & Customized Education, Chester County IU; Carrie Amann, Deputy Secretary of Policy and Planning, Office of the Governor; Lyndsay Grady, Workforce Development Director, Scranton Chamber of Commerce; Kellyn Nolan, Chief Academic Officer, Johnson College; Eileen Cipriani, Deputy Secretary, Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry; Teri Ooms, Executive Director, Institue for Public Policy and Economic Development; Brion Lieberman, VP of Human Resources, Geisinger; and Paul Casparro, Business Manager/Financial Secretary, IBEW Local 81.

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Blake Announces $5.5 Million for Area Redevelopment Projects

SCRANTON, December 21, 2017 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today announced that five Lackawanna County redevelopment projects will receive $5.5 million in state Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grants.

“RACP funding awards reinvigorate communities throughout the state and leverage significant non-state investment to bolster regional economies,” Blake said. “I applaud Governor Tom Wolf for his commitment to the continued development of our region and for his continued dedication to driving state investments into critically important economic development projects across the Commonwealth.”

The RACP funding was announced earlier today by Governor Tom Wolf and included $1 million Lackawanna County to complete a large-scale consolidation of County agencies and operations at the former Globe Store on Wyoming Avenue in the City of Scranton. 

“This project, which has been in planning for years, will enable cost savings and greater efficiency by establishing what is essentially a one stop shop for county government services,” Blake said. “The consolidation in one convenient location in the heart of the City is not only good for the County’s bottom line but it is good for all residents of Lackawanna County who must access a wide variety of County services on a daily basis.” 

Carbondale Development Partners received $1.5 million to complete a large-scale redevelopment plan for multiple acres along Main Street in the heart of the city’s business district. 

“This project will finalize years of revitalization efforts and attract commercial investment between two major intersections along Main Street in downtown Carbondale,” Blake said. “The City’s central business district has benefited from past state investment and this RACP funding is integral to the city’s continued economic growth and success.”

The Scranton Counseling Center (SCC) project received $1 million to continue the work to relocate SCC into a new facility in South Scranton.

“The relocation of the Scranton Counseling Center will not only provide a 21st century working environment for hundreds of doctors, nurses, social workers and other health care professionals in South Scranton but it will free up for development the 300 block of Adams Avenue in Central City which is ripe for new private investment,” Blake added.

The Dickson City Revitalization Project received $1 million to construct new commercial office space and a warehouse facility in and around the rear 200-400 blocks of Main Street in the Borough.  The 11-acre site contains blighted warehouse structures that will be demolished and the new facility will contain the headquarters for TES, Inc. and Stonerun Trucking.

Lastly, the Just Believe Recovery Center in Carbondale received $1 million to add an additional 12 detox rooms and 12 rehab rooms to their existing operation. It will also help the facility fit out rooms for their Outpatient Clinic and CAN school as well as to add men’s sober living rooms.

“I have and I continue to support Governor Wolf’s efforts to invest in battling the opioid epidemic by placing significant emphasis on expanding access to treatment and diverting those suffering from substance use disorder away from the criminal justice system and into supportive programs,” Blake added. “This funding will allow Just Believe to continue the good work they are doing for NEPA families struggling with addiction.”

RACP is a commonwealth grant program administered by the Governor’s Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic and community development improvement projects.  The program requires a dollar for dollar match in non-state funding in the project and all project related expenses must be incurred and satisfied in advance of approved reimbursements from the state.

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Sen. Blake, Rep. Flynn Announce Financial Watch Status Designation for Scranton SD

SCRANTON, June 23, 2017 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) and State Rep. Marty Flynn today announced that the Scranton School District has been designated in Financial Watch Status by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE).

The legislators were joined at a news conference in Scranton earlier today by Scranton School District Superintendent Dr. Alexis Kirijan, Scranton School Board President Bob Sheridan and Chief Financial Officer Gregg Sunday to discuss the implications of the designation and the actions PDE will likely undertake as a result of the designation.

“The entire purpose of the Financial Watch Status is for PDE to provide additional technical assistance and guidance to the district so the school board and the administration can better navigate difficult financial circumstances,” Blake said. “This designation will allow Scranton School District to make the best decisions to protect the interests not only of teachers and students, but for all citizens of the City of Scranton.”

Blake noted that the Financial Watch Status designation announced today is a standard procedure under PDE’s Early Warning System. Reports of financial data by the Scranton School District and other indicators necessitate this action by PDE under current statutes and regulations.

PDE sent a letter on Friday to Scranton School District to inform administrators of the designation and outlining the criteria which necessitated this PDE action. The Financial Watch Status designation is the third level of PDE’s Early Warning System.

Through the designation of Financial Watch Status, PDE will provide technical assistance to Scranton School District to help address its financial challenges. It will also conduct an independent review of the financial condition of Scranton School District.

“I am confident that through the direction of the PDE advisors and the Scranton School District leadership – together with the support of Senator Blake, myself and our elected and appointed partners – the best interests of our students, teachers, support staff and taxpayers will be served as we move forward,” Flynn added.

Blake said that in other circumstances, such as last year in the City of Erie where the school district was put under Financial Watch Status, additional state support for the district was awarded in an attempt to relieve fiscal distress.

Click here to read a copy of the letter that was sent earlier today to Scranton School District.

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Blake Announces $175K in PennDOT Grants for Two Local Traffic Signal Projects

SCRANTON, May 11, 2017 – State Sen. John Blake (D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe) today announced that two projects in the City of Scranton and Clarks Green Borough have received Green Light-Go grant funding.

The two local projects were among the 94 municipalities that will receive $33 million to support the costs of upgrading traffic signals under the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s “Green Light-Go” program.  

“The Green Light-Go program is another key source of funding for local municipalities that we were able to create in 2013 through Act 89,” Blake said. “I applaud PennDOT for recognizing the importance of these two traffic and safety projects in Scranton and Clarks Green and delivering this much-needed funding to Lackawanna County projects.”

The City of Scranton received $135,200 for traffic signal replacement along Green Ridge St. at Wyoming Ave. in a high traffic area of the City. Clarks Green Borough received a grant of $39,755 for traffic signal equipment upgrades along East Grove St. at South Abington Rd. in the borough.

The Green Light-Go Program, created through Act 89 of 2013, provides state funds for the operation and maintenance of traffic signals along critical and designated corridors on state highways. The program is designed to improve safety and mobility by reducing congestion and improving efficiency of existing traffic signals on state and local highways.

The Green Light-Go Program is a competitive application and reimbursement grant program requiring a 20% match for municipalities, counties, or planning organizations requesting financial assistance for existing traffic signal maintenance and operations activities.

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