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Lewisburg Children's Museum uses ARPA money to fund low-income, veteran admission

Daily Item - 11/29/2023

Nov. 28—LEWISBURG — Low-income families, veterans and older residents benefitted from the COVID-19 relief funds allocated to the Lewisburg Children's Museum from Union County.

The Lewisburg Children's Museum, at 815 Market St., Lewisburg, was awarded $8,000 from Union County in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds last year. Interim Executive Director Mary Beth Harris said the money was used for the Count Me In initiative, which provides reduced admission fees for low-income children and their families, as well as discounts for active/retired military and seniors.

"The LCM was significantly impacted by the COVID pandemic due to mandatory shutdowns and drastically reduced admissions and program participation," said Harris. "The LCM was still a very young organization, only 2.5 years from its opening, when the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020. The funds available through COVID relief have been vital in helping the LCM survive the pandemic and thrive in the long-term."

Since October 2022, the county has awarded 26 local municipalities, organizations and projects a portion of $8,008,236 in ARPA funds from Union County. Union County received $9 million of the $6.15 billion federal funds allocated to Pennsylvania. The county has approximately $905,000 that has not been allocated.

The Count Me In program has also allowed us to increase access to the museum through the cultural pass program with local libraries, expand programming for children with neurodivergent needs, and partner with other nonprofit organizations serving children to reduce admission barriers for their clients, said Harris.

"In 2023, we have seen a tremendous increase in guests utilizing our accessibility options for admission," said Harris. "Our accessibility admissions are up 87 percent from pre-pandemic levels and account for 13 percent of all museum admissions."

One of the LCM's priorities since its founding has been to make the museum accessible to all families, said Harris.

"We want to reduce barriers for families to learn and play together at the museum," said Harris. "The Count Me In program is key to helping families with limited resources access the educational and enriching exhibits and programming at the museum."

Harris thanked the commissioners in support of the Count Me In fund.

"The assistance provided through the ARPA fund gives so many families in our community access to needed educational and developmental opportunities for their children," she said.

Commissioner Chair Jeff Reber said the Lewisburg Children's Museum is a "huge asset" to the region.

"Somebody shouldn't be held back on the learning experience based on their income," said Reber. "Anything we can do to help those who served and families of those who served is important."

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