Commissioners allocate $9 million in COVID-19 relief
Lycoming County Commissioners Tuesday allocated $9 million of $10.2 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act Block Grant funds for urgent needs in the pandemic.
The $9 million is an initial allocation and the commissioners put into their motion reallocation can take place if necessary, said Shannon Rossman, executive director of the county Planning Department, which is overseeing the distribution and analysis of needs.
A breakdown of the tentative allocations is “up to:” $3.1 million for school districts; services; $1.75 million for county; $1.5 million for learning centers; $1 million for non-profits; $1 million for small businesses (29 thus far); $250,000 for municipalities; $200,000 for administration of funds and $150,000 for fire and emergency medical services.
Commissioner Rick Mirabito’s motion to broaden the scope of distribution and change it as needed to meet the needs of the community was agreeable and accepted by Commissioners Tony Mussare and Scott Metzger, board chairman.
The block grant allocation fund is left with a balance of $1.2 million.
Commissioners urged any of these eligible entities to go to www.lyco.org/covidrelief to see what grants are available and schedules for meetings that commissioners are holding by Zoom remote technology.
Small business applications must be postmarked by Friday; learning centers applications are due Tuesday and general non-profits and fire-EMS are due Oct. 2, Rossman said.
Caveats exist on acceptance. Non-profits must be either 501c3 or 501 c19 status, Rossman said.
Fire companies/EMS must not be a government agency, she said.
Learning centers target elementary students during the pandemic, she said.
“They operate when a school district has a hybrid learning plan with teaching available a (certain number) of days and help parents who must go to work by providing instruction to younger students,” she said.
The block grants are not for loss of revenue but are related to financial impact caused by COVID-19, commissioners noted.
Providing invoices is the first key step to getting financial help, Rossman said.
School districts receiving the block grants will be helped so they don’t pass those costs onto taxpayers in the form of higher property taxes, Mirabito said.
It is important for learning centers to be funded so the students don’t lose a year of instruction, he said.
The allocations were not picked from out of the air.
Instead, the county planning department conducted a needs assessment surveying the eligible parties as early as July, Rossman said.
Mussare said he was concerned about the relatively “low number,” 29 businesses, in the application chain and said he thought many were either not aware of the grants or believed they will not qualify.
Mussare said he was equally concerned regarding the allocation to school districts and learning centers.
Mussare said his concern was the “final outcome” and “spending for the results we wanted.”
He noted how these funds get these entities part-way through solving challenges and those parents face, but he likened the matter to a car rebuilt with not enough money to buy the engine. “That would be a mistake,” Mussare said. “A total waste of money.”
“We can only fund until Dec. 30,” Rossman said.
Mirabito noted the funding dilemma, especially for schools and learning centers.
“We’re caught between a rock and hard place,” he said. The Centers for Disease Control guidelines can’t be complied with, in full, by Williamsport Area School District, which doesn’t have the space to do so, he said.
Metzger contributed to the segment of the discussion.
“No CARES money solved (everything) 100 percent,” he said. “It is temporary help. We have to get back to operating 100 percent with safety measures in place.”
Mirabito noted how the learning centers help parents to get back to work.
The reality is that learning centers finances are being drained due to the virus impact. One of those, cited by Metzger, spent $50,000 over the past three weeks.