Phillips Armstrong Delivers State of Lehigh County Address Virtually
By Colin McEvoy on February 25, 2021
Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong delivered his annual State of the County address on Feb. 25, reflecting on a year that has been anything but ordinary.
During his speech, delivered virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Armstrong discussed the fight against the coronavirus, as well as other topics like the county budget, Cedarbrook Nursing Home, farmland preservation, and changes in the election process.
“This past year was full of uncertainties, but I can tell you now that the future of Lehigh County is bright,” Armstrong said. “Together we can make a difference in shaping the upcoming year to be what we want it to be: a year of hope and recovery.”
The address was broadcast on the Facebook page of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), which hosted the online event. The full speech can be viewed on the organization’s Facebook page, and will be archived on its YouTube channel.
Armstrong highlighted measures implemented to minimize the spread of COVID-19. These include the temporary closure of the county buildings to visitors, mask implementations and temperature screening at county facilities, a COVID-19 reporting system at the Human Resource Department, remote working for more than 400 employees, and more.
“Returning to normalcy is our number one priority, which is why we must move forward with the health and safety of our community in mind,” he said. “There may be further challenges in 2021, but we have great solutions, and even greater people behind every step.”
More than 1,000 individuals have died in Lehigh County due to COVID-19, and the county remains in the middle of the longest state of emergency in its history. Armstrong praised the county’s first responders, front-line workers, and 2,019 full-time county employees for keeping essential services active during the pandemic.
“Without each one of them, Lehigh County would not be where it is today,” he said. “I cannot thank each and every one of my fellow employees enough for all the hard work they have accomplished during this year.”
Armstrong said the county partnered with the Pennsylvania Department of Health to bring a COVID-19 testing clinic to Coca-Cola Park, and is now partnering with the Allentown Health Bureau to update vaccination locations and opportunities in the coming months.
In 2020, Lehigh County received over $33.3 million in CARES Act Funding to help better our neighborhoods and communities. These funds helped allow the county to assist more than 700 small businesses in getting back to their feet, Armstrong said.
“Our small businesses are the backbone of this country,” he said. “They are the foundation on which we so many residents built their livelihoods, and as County Executive, I wanted to ensure that our small businesses had the means to make it through this pandemic.”
The county has also secured an additional $11 million in CARES funding for Rental and Housing Assistance. That program is in early stages and details are still being finalized.
Armstrong also discussed the county budget, which will include no tax increase for county residents this year. The county is projecting $114 million to come from local property taxes while preserving current millage rates at 3.78.
The county obtained new voting equipment to provide assistance in the 2020 general election and all elections moving forward, including two envelope openers and one high-speed ballot scanner. This was made possible by more than $1 million in grant funding obtained.
Armstrong discussed the development of a Lehigh County Department of Corrections Community Action Partnership Board, which will allow community partners and professionals to collaborate on criminal justice services.
He also discussed Cedarbrook, which Armstrong said remains “our top focus.” Noting that the nursing home has maintained its 4-star ranking with CMS Ratings, Armstrong detailed the precautions the county has taken to ensure our seniors are comfortable and protected during the pandemic.
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