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Blair gets $6.7M grant

Funds marked for social services

Blair County’s director of social services on Tuesday presented a 2021 Human Services Block Grant Plan to the Blair County commissioners that earmarks $6.7 million for programs to serve more than 9,000 local residents who are struggling, some due to the COVID-19 pandemic and others with special needs.

James Hudack, the director of the Blair County department, said, “That’s not a lot of money.”

He pointed out that Blair County, since being approved for human services funding in 2013, receives the same amount as it did eight years ago.

“We work very hard to be financially prudent,” he said, adding that the department does its due diligence in determining the local needs.

An advantage of the Human Services Block Grant is that the money can be moved around to meet unexpected problems that arise, Hudack said.

Commissioners Bruce Erb, Laura Burke and Amy Webster were given the plan Tuesday and will present it for approval Thursday during the board’s business session.

The block grant proposal requests a base allocation for mental health services of $3.8 million to serve 4,100 people.

Another $1.3 million was designated for services to 1,900 individuals with intellectual disabilities.

Substance abuse services are expected to be provided to 4,100 individuals at a cost of $717,000.

It is estimated that 760 individuals will be recipients of assistance to prevent homelessness.

Many of the figures are projected based on estimates of need and experience.

He said his office also has requested funds to aid county student assistant programs and for additional aid to address mental health crises.

Those requests for funds are through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

The county held two public hearings describing the plan and block grant request — one in May and the other on July 9.

Hudack told the commissioners that there is “great collaboration” in Blair County. When a problem crops up, Blair County stakeholders, businesses, schools and the county and state government step up, he said.

He noted in comments after the meeting that this is a critical, post-COVID-19 year.

He said it may take a year and a half or two years before things return to normal.

The commissioners on Tuesday reviewed other proposals including:

n A request from the Blair County court administrator to hire Vistacom Inc. of Allentown to evaluate the audiovisual technology used in each of the county’s six courtrooms. The request is not to exceed $8,500 and will be funded by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency.

n A proposal to authorize Blair County solicitor Nathan Karn to condemn property necessary to complete the rehabilitation of County Road 101 in Claysburg. The project will include replacement of two bridges.

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