WILKES-BARRE, Pa. -- The city of Wilkes-Barre is struggling with a $3.5 million deficit. On Friday, officials applied to the state for "financially distressed status," known as Act 47, in an effort to fix that debt.
"This is not an easy decision," said city administrator Ted Wampole. "This is not, pull out a piece of paper, sign it and submit it, and hopefully everything works out. This is a very tough decision on the city.
The Act 47 program is designed to help communities shore up their finances within five years. Among other things, communities can ask to raise taxes more than would normally be allowed.
If the city is determined to be financially distressed by the state, it will be put to the top of the list for grants, be given a financial coordinator, and be eligible for a $3 million no-interest loan.
"Which obviously helps us with next year's $3.5 million deficit. Again, they have to approve it, you have to be qualified for it, but we certainly think that we are," said Wampole.
Jason Negron co-owns King of Kings restaurant on Public Square and says even if the city is deemed financially distressed, it won't hurt business.
"I feel like it's better than staying put and actually get some help to improve the city," said Negron.
Negron says it's a sign the city is investing in itself.
"You shouldn't worry about opinions about Wilkes-Barre because it's our hometown. They can think what they want but I'm glad they're actually doing something to make it a better place for everyone."
Sean Kenney works downtown at Loyalty Barber Shop. He says he's glad the city is asking for the help it needs.
"It's in trouble but this is a step in the right direction. You have to start somewhere," Kenney said.
City officials say they expect to find out if Wilkes-Barre is considered financially distressed by the state in the coming weeks.