Congress passed a $787 billion federal stimulus package earlier this year, but Williamsburg residents still wonder how much of that amount will find its way to their community and into which programs.
That is the question that Rep. Edolphus Towns attempted to answer at a town hall meeting this past Monday at Aishel Avrham Residential Health Facility (40 Heyward Street), hosted by the United Jewish Organizaion.
Two dozen members of Williamsburg’s Hasidic community questioned Towns, whose 10th Congressional District includes much of the neighborhood’s Hasidic Quarter, as well as state and city officials, about the allocation of stimulus funds for small business loans, mortgages, medicare and food stamps.
“The money is in circulation but some areas say they haven’t felt the impact yet,” said Towns. “We want to make sure some of the stimulus funds is going in Williamsburg.”
As part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, New York State will receive $26.7 billion in funds, while New York City will obtain $4.5 billion.
While more than half of this money will be allocated for Medicaid and for targeted fiscal relief, UJO Chair Rabbi David Niederman believes community members will see increases in food stamp allocations, improved New York City Housing Authority maintenance, and fewer cuts to health care services, but still had questions about kosher food costs and bank regulations.
“We hope the schools and institutions can access modernization funding for green building and we see an increase in weatherization,” said Niederman. “An increase in lending will help stimulate housing development. Banks should give mortgages so people can buy and fill empty buildings in this neighborhood.”
While it is difficult to determine how much each individual Williamsburg resident have benefited from the AARA, staff members from Towns’ office highlighted several areas of interest to the Hasidic community, including Title 1 education funding, Head Start, student financial assistance, and community health centers.
Pell Grants will be increased from $500 to $5,350 for 2009−2010 and to $5,550 in 2010−2011. Eligible Williamsburg Yeshivas include the Rabbinical College of Ohr Shimon Yisroel, Rabbinical Seminary of Adas Yereim, United Talmudical Seminary, and Yeshiva of Nitra Rabbinical College.
In terms of health care and social services, the ODA Primary Health Care Center in Williamsburg is set to receive $236,000 while New York City residents have already received a 13 percent increase in monthly food stamps.
New Yorkers will also expect to see a tax credit of $400 for individuals earning under $75,000, $800 for families earning under $150,000.
Small businesses can also expect to see benefits.
“The Small Business Authority is going to start providing funds for small businesses to lend money,” said Albert Wiltshire, chief of staff to Towns. “As for bigger banks and bigger dollars, we’re trying to see if there’s a pattern. Once we see there’s a pattern, the congressman is going to hold hearings.”