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Parameters set for Williamsport’s $25.8M rescue plan allocation

The use of $25.8 million in American Rescue Plan dollars by Williamsport began to be put into focus Tuesday at City Council’s finance committee.

Mayor Derek Slaughter said he is preparing to hold a joint-work session next week with council after receiving the guidelines from the U.S. Department of Treasury on areas municipalities can use the COVID-19 relief funding on.

The guidelines are broad and as follows:

• Support public health expenditures by, for example, funding COVID-19 mitigation efforts, medical expenses, behavioral healthcare and certain public health and safety staff.

• Address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency including economic harms to workers, households and small businesses impacted industries in the public sector.

• Replace lost public sector revenue

using this funding to provide government services to the extent of the reduction in revenue experienced due to the pandemic.

• Provide premium pay for essential workers offering additional support to those who have and will bear the greatest health risk because of their service in critical infrastructure sectors.

• Invest in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure making necessary investments to improve access to clean drinking water, support vital wastewater and water infrastructure and expand access to broadband Internet.

Slaughter said within the broad outline the guidance continues to be less restrictive.

For example, the Treasury recognized that many people during the pandemic and post-pandemic used parks and recreation taking part in outdoor recreation and rails and trails. So, improving green spaces and parks and recreation spaces appeared to be one of the uses for the funding.

Slaughter said he met recently with the county commissioners, as the county is set to receive $22 million, and planned to hold a meeting with the Williamsport Municipal Water and Sanitary Authority.

“I believe it is prudent on all our parts, as much as we can, to use our resources collectively where it makes sense and to have the greatest impact of these dollars,” he said.

It is important to note these are initial discussions by no means set in stone.

“We have gotten half of it so far and the treasury said we get half now and another half in a year from now,” Slaughter said.

As part of making a list of priorities, Councilwoman Liz Miele, committee chairwoman, recommended an immediate mechanism be put in place through which people could offer suggestions.

Slaughter said he would confer with Chris Cooley, information technology coordinator, on a quick survey that could be put on the city website and shared on social media sites.

Miele hinted that she believed one of the better uses of the funding would be capital expenditures.

She also said this was an evolving situation, as was a lot of the loan grant funds created during the pandemic, and spending parameters have been revised several times.

Overall, the guidelines are becoming less restrictive.

“That gives the community flexibility,” Miele said.

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