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City eyes use of stimulus funds

The guidelines to municipalities on how to use funds from the American Rescue Plan aren’t yet in hand.

But that doesn’t mean officials aren’t planning how the funds might be best spent here.

Allocation numbers provided to by the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors and consistent with what had been provided to the county indicated over $10 million coming into the county.

But that included an allocation of nearly $895,000 to the City of Warren.

That number has grown.

“The last time I checked the city was to receive a total of $1.6 million split in two tranches,” City Manager Nancy Freenock said.

Prior reporting indicated that the first round of payments to governments would occur within 60 days with the second allocation coming one year later.

“The guidelines for us have not been published yet so use of funds is still tenuous,” Freenock said. “We are looking into mortgage assistance and good programs. It appears that there is sufficient rental assistance in the county.”

The county — administered through the Warren-Forest Counties Economic Opportunity Council — has received $2.5 million specifically for rental assistance.

“The funds can also be sued for infrastructure and to replace lost revenue,” Freenock said. “I am sure more information will follow.”

The Pennsylvania State Association of Borough detailed 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.

Freenock said it is “too early to predict” whether the city will need to utilize funds to address municipal revenue shortfalls caused by the pandemic.

“Revenue shortfalls were not as steep as I had predicted last year,” she said, “although DCED (state Department of Community and Economic Development) cautions that shortfalls will continue through 2021, 2022 and possibly 2023.”

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