Reading, PA - Treasurer Stacy Garrity traveled to Berks County on Friday for a series of meetings with local business, community and education leaders.
“Berks County has a rich history and so much going for it today. It’s a pleasure to meet with local leaders to share how the Pennsylvania Treasury can have an impact on the county – but more importantly to listen to them and learn what they see as future challenges and opportunities.”
Pennsylvania State Treasurer, Stacy Garrity
Garrity first met with employees and executives of Customers Bank, which has four branches in Berks County and many more across southeastern Pennsylvania, to discuss issues including underbanked communities and the importance of outreach to veterans, women and minorities.
“We were delighted to welcome Treasurer Garrity to Customers Bank for a roundtable discussion about improving access to financial services for ‘underbanked communities’ in our urban and rural areas. We were proud to be one of America’s top Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lenders, and we shared with Treasurer Garrity our very deliberate program to provide loans in low- and moderate- income communities, and to minority-, women-, and veteran-owned enterprises.”
Jay Sidhu, Customers Bancorp, Inc. Chairman & CEO; and Customers Bank Executive Chairman
Garrity also met with Wyomissing Borough Councilman William S. Jenckes, West Reading Borough Councilman Jack Gombach, and West Reading Borough Manager Dean Murray to discuss how their municipalities will spend the money received in Coronavirus Local Fiscal Recovery Fund payments made under the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Treasury distributed more than $489.7 million in ARPA funding to 2,445 municipalities over 10 weeks earlier this year. Wyomissing received $556,578 and West Reading received $224,829 from those payments. Reading received its first payment of about $30.5 million directly from the U.S. Treasury.
According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, a second round of payments is scheduled to begin in May 2022. All of the funds must be spent by December 2024.
“I’m glad to see the efforts being made to ensure these funds don’t go to waste. So many communities have been impacted by the pandemic and this money is meant to give them a hand up where it’s needed most.”
Pennsylvania State Treasurer, Stacy Garrity
Municipalities can use ARPA payments to address negative economic impacts due to the pandemic, replace lost public sector revenue, support public health, assist essential workers, and invest in infrastructure improvements such as water, sewer, or broadband services.
Garrity next toured the Centro Hispano, which has been providing services to the greater Reading area for more than 53 years. Services offered by the Centro Hispano include a financial stability initiative, a medical interpreting program, a higher education initiative and scholarship program, and information and referral advocacy.
While there, she discussed Treasury’s PA 529 College and Career Savings Program, emphasizing the fact that there is now no minimum contribution required to open an account, and the Keystone Scholars program, which gives families a head start on education savings by providing $100 for every baby born to a Pennsylvania family in 2019 or later.
“At the Centro Hispano we serve to break barriers and build bridges of access to our most vulnerable families. With education being such an important pathway out of poverty for our families, we value the relationships we have at the Centro Hispano to connect families to the educational programs and opportunities that are afforded to them.”
Michael Toledo, President and CEO of the Centro Hispano
During a tour of Reading Area Community College’s (RACC) Schmidt Training and Technology Center, Treasurer Garrity also talked about the PA 529 program, emphasizing the fact that although some people view it as a way to save for a four-year degree, PA 529 accounts can also be used for help pay for community colleges, technical schools, or apprenticeship programs.
“We are so proud to have Treasurer Garrity on the Reading Area Community College campus to show her firsthand how the Schmidt Training and Technology Center uses an integrated system and blended learning approach to high-tech career training that has been sought out and replicated across the country."
Dr. Susan Looney, President of RACC
Closing out the day, Treasurer Garrity met with the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance (GRCA) to discuss issues of interest to the local business community.
“GRCA appreciates Treasurer Garrity meeting with our members to discuss important business issues such as unemployment compensation fraud and protecting citizens’ identities. We appreciate all the work her office has done to date. We look forward to finding solutions to the backlog of claims as well as ensuring still struggling businesses are not burdened with increased taxes due to fraudulent UC claims.”
Jim Gerlach, President and CEO of GRCA