HONESDALE, PA — For yet another consecutive Wayne County Commissioners meeting, the public comment portion on July 9 became a forum for the community’s continuing conversation about the …
HONESDALE, PA — For yet another consecutive Wayne County Commissioners meeting, the public comment portion on July 9 became a forum for the community’s continuing conversation about the Black Lives Matter movement and local government’s response to that movement. The past couple of weeks, the commissioners have received criticism from activists for giving credence to rumors that a local June 4 protest was going to turn into a violent riot. Commissioner Joe Adams specifically received backlash for a comment he made to a local news outlet, in which he discussed the risks associated with the protests. He even received requests for his resignation after it was alleged that he used his influence as a public official to have one story about the protest removed from the outlet’s website, and replaced with a new story featuring his own comments.
This week, the tone of the public comment portion was markedly different. Local resident Joe Suhosky spoke first and called a woman who asked for Adams’ resignation “a nutjob.”
“Commissioner Adams did the absolute right thing by alerting the police about the possible influx of rioters and roving bands of protestors coming to Honesdale’s Central Park,” he said. He also said that he owns a business near Central Park, and that he and his employees were “intimidated by the gathering crowd” on June 4.
Suhosky proceeded to call the Black Lives Matter movement “inherently racist” and “nothing but a movement to intimidate weak-kneed, feckless politicians.”
The next speaker was Charlie Racht, who also denounced the anti-police brutality protests going on throughout the country, saying that the murder of George Floyd does not account for the national response, which he described as “terrorizing” and “destruction.” He also affirmed his support of the commissioners.
“We really need to support our police departments, our law enforcement, not give into these people and what they want,” he said.
Chairman Brian Smith reiterated his response from weeks ago, saying that the commissioners needed to treat the threats of riots as credible threats, the same way that they must evacuate the courthouse if somebody calls in and says they’ve planted a bomb. Smith also encouraged people who want to see change in the community to get into contact with their representatives, Sen. Lisa Baker and Reps. Jonathan Fritz and Mike Peifer.
Later in the meeting, the county’s housing coordinator Heather Miszler reported to the commissioners about federal funding the county has received to help residents who have been financially hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic pay their rent.
To be eligible for rent assistance through the CARES Act Rent Relief Program, residents must have documentation to show a 30-percent reduction in annual household income since March 1 related to COVID-19. Renters who became unemployed must have applied for unemployment compensation. For eligibility, a household’s income also cannot exceed the area median income, adjusted for the number living in a household. This ranges from $48,300 for a single-resident household to $91,100 for an eight-resident household.
If approved, the county will help pay 100 percent of a household’s monthly rent payments at a maximum of $750 per month. The assistance will last for up to six months, until December 30, as long as the renter’s 30-percent reduction in income is maintained throughout that entire time. Tenants and landlords must apply together, Miszler noted. She also mentioned that mortgage assistance for homeowners is available through the PA Housing and Finance Agency, but not through a local agency.
Residents in need of rent assistance can get more information for applying online at www.waynecountypa.gov/821/housing-department, or by calling 570/253-6758.