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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Schenectady ARPA funding to allocate $500K for COCOA House salaries


SCHENECTADY — The Schenectady nonprofit COCOA House is set‍ to receive a significant boost in ​funding thanks to⁣ the approval of an amendment⁤ to their original ⁣ARPA award by the ⁢Schenectady City Council. The organization‍ will be receiving ​$500,000 in city American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to cover ‍the salaries of six employees for the next three years.

The federal‌ funds were initially awarded‌ to COCOA House in September 2022 for an infrastructure project aimed at expanding ⁢the group’s ⁢site at 869 Stanley St. However, the organization was able⁣ to raise additional funds from outside​ sources to purchase a neighboring⁢ property and convert it into⁣ a new teen center. As a result, COCOA House returned to the council last September to ​request that the $500,000 be utilized for $200,000 in annual salaries through 2026, allowing the nonprofit to have full-time employees for the first time in the‌ site’s three-decade existence.

Under the proposal approved Monday, COCOA​ House ‍Executive Director William Rivas will‌ receive a $70,000 annual salary to serve⁣ full time. The ARPA funding ​will also fund a⁤ $50,000 ⁣salary for a full-time ⁤program director, $30,000 annually for a ​part-time program assistant, and an additional $50,000 per year​ to be split among three part-time staff members.

Rivas expressed his gratitude for the⁢ funding,⁤ stating, “The partnership speaks volumes of their belief in ⁤COCOA House and‌ the work we’ve been able to do. I’m excited for us ⁣to be able to expand the work that we’ve been able to accomplish the last few years and we’re excited to go into ‍this​ new‍ phase with the teen empowerment center and the COCOA House garden around the corner. It’s about really ‍expanding programming⁢ and‌ services⁤ to​ the youth in Hamilton⁣ Hill.”

In addition to⁢ the expansion of the teen center, COCOA House is looking to build a young entrepreneur⁣ curriculum, offer writing classes, teach financial literacy, and open a content creation studio ⁣in the program as well.

The council passed‍ the⁢ ARPA amendment ⁤by⁢ a 6-1 margin, with ⁣Councilwoman ‌Doreen Ditoro the⁣ sole dissenting ‍vote.​ She ‍expressed her ⁢preference for the city funding to‍ be used for programming or ⁣a capital project,‌ rather than ⁢salaries.

Rivas noted that pre-pandemic, ⁣the center had ‌a max capacity of 30 children per day participating in the group’s programs. ⁤However, after the⁣ pandemic, ‍COCOA House ‍has⁢ had issues attracting as many kids ‌as ⁣the school‌ district launched its own after-school program. The organization is now looking‍ to reach more​ at-risk teens and is ​expecting⁤ to‌ double the⁣ number of kids participating in their youth programming with the forthcoming‍ addition of the ⁣teen ​center.

The ⁢organization will⁣ be opening the center within the ‍next three weeks, and the ⁣amended ARPA resolution also removes⁣ a requirement that COCOA⁤ House secure ‍additional commitments of $3.6 million for the original infrastructure project in‍ order to​ receive‌ the ‌ARPA funding.

Emily Stanton
Emily Stanton
Emily Stanton, a skillful journalist previously based in Boston, is adept at covering a diverse array of stories. Her thorough and engaging reporting style, honed with a Master's in Journalism from Boston University, focuses on community-relevant stories.
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  1. Agree COCOA House provides valuable services to the community and its staff deserve fair compensation for their work. #supportlocalorganizations


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