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County, municipal governments to receive over $10M

The American Rescue Plan doesn’t just bring $1,400 checks to the majority of American citizens.

It brings direct aid to every governmental entity in Warren County — a total that exceeds $10 million.

The largest recipient is the county government — set to receive roughly $7.6 million — while the smallest allocation, just over $15,000, is headed to Bear Lake Borough.

While the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on government in the county vary, it’s clear officials believe they can find projects to invest the funding into.

In Clarendon, the borough saw decreased earned income and local services taxes as well as decreased property taxes.

“Borough council recognized this early in 2020 during the Governor’s shutdown period in the spring and responded by eliminating discretionary expenses and projects planned for 2020,” Clarendon Borough Council President Paul Pascuzzi said. “We deferred a few project for 2020 into 2021 and with the additional $42,000, council will look to fund those projects as well as save the unplanned stimulus funds as a reserve.”

Glade Township Supervisor Joe Scully said he’d like to see the funding address road and bridge work, noting that the supervisors are currently working through the preliminary steps of exploring a bridge expansion.

“We can surely use it up,” he said. “We haven’t been in a bind per say on anything. We’ve worked around it and through it.

“Overall, we seem to manage pretty good with the COVID problem as it stands right now.”

The City of Warren advocated for such direct aid back in July when another round of COVID-19 relief was on the table.

“As you are no doubt aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with Warren’s 2020 approved operating budget; it is likely that repercussions from the pandemic will be felt for several year,” City Manager Nancy Freenock wrote. “The city’s estimated loss of revenue – due to unemployment and plummeting tax revenue – is $750,000.”

The Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) explained how the funding will make it to the township level.

“Washington has 30 days to get it to the state and the state has 60 days to get it to you,” the organization detailed. “That looks like mid-June but watch for it to be wrapped into the state budget due by June 30 of each year.”

The Pennsylvania State Association of Borough details just what the funding can be used for: Responding to the COVID-19 emergency and addressing its economic effects, including through aid to households, small businesses, nonprofits and industries such as tourism and hospitality; providing premium pay to essential employees or grants to their employers. Premium pay couldn’t exceed $13 per hour or $25,000 per worker; providing government services affected by a revenue reduction resulting from COVID-19 and making investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.

“State and local governments cannot use the funds towards pensions or to offset, directly or indirectly, revenue from a tax cut enacted since March 3, 2021,” the Boroughs association adds. “Direct payments will be made in two disbursements – first within 60 days of enactment and the second, one year later.”

The funds are eligible to be used through the end of 2024.

“I have many ideas on community needs but I’m going to withhold comment on those needs until the guidance on expenditures is received, lest I give any false hope,” County Commissioner Ben Kafferlin.

Commissioner Tricia Durbin noted she hasn’t “heard what restrictions are placed on these funds.”

Kafferlin said the county’s COVID-19-related expenses were “covered by various grants, the largest being the CARES Act,” the first federal COVID-19 relief bill.

“In 2021, we have incurred some more but less than $10,000, all of which we anticipate(d) having covered by PEMA or FEMA,” he said. “In 2020, we did not see a significant shortfall in tax payment, either, though we are braced for a shortfall in 2021 or beyond.

“Experience tells me no money is free, and the county will pay for this one way or another,” he added. “At this point, the commissioners have not received guidance on timeline, eligible uses or any restrictions related to the stimulus money. Furthermore, we have not discussed desired uses of the money.”

According to the National Association of Counties, the $1.9 trillion stimulus includes $362 billion for state and local governments and $65.1 billion to counties. PSATS said that $936 million was allocated to Pennsylvania municipalities with populations of less than $50,000.

While there may be light at the COVID-19 tunnel, it’s no secret that effects remain.

Those effects are very tangible in Clarendon.

“Bakers Service Station and the Main Street Diner were both closed in 2020 and remain closed yet today,” he said. “These businesses were operated by local owners that had to make very difficult decisions and may never recover and open.”

Here’s a look at what each entity in Warren County is expected to receive. These numbers come from PSATS and are consistent with numbers provided by Kafferlin: Bear Lake Borough, $15,325; Brokenstraw Twp., $175,688; Cherry Grove Twp., $20,268; Clarendon Borough, $41,920; Columbus Twp., $188,937; Conewango Twp., $330,120; Deerfield Twp., $31,242; Eldred Twp., $60,112; Elk Twp., $48,445; Farmington Twp., $118,543; Freehold Twp., $140,788; Glade Twp., $213,753; Limestone Twp., $36,581; Mead Twp., $128,528; Pine Grove Twp., $249,741; Pittsfield Twp., $132,879; Pleasant Twp., $227,001; Sheffield Twp., $195,759; Southwest Twp., $48,490; Spring Creek Twp., $77,908; Sugar Grove Borough, $56,651; Sugar Grove Twp., $164,022; Tidioute Borough, $63,374; Triumph Twp., $28,869; City of Warren, $894,656; Watson Twp., $25,310; Youngsville Borough, $159,375.

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