The Delaware County Council recently considered ways to spend the $110 million in American Rescue Plan Act money as members offered their views on priorities they would like to see funded.
As part of a quarterly project update due to be submitted to the U.S. Treasury by the end of the month, County Executive Director Howard Lazarus provided an overview of the spending allocation and future plans. where they might go.
“All of these funds must be committed by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026,” he explained.
He added that authorized distributions from these funds could be directed to loss of income; respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and its negative economic impacts; bonuses for eligible essential workers; investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure; and the costs of administering these programs.
So far, Lazarus said, $9.6 million has been allocated, including $496,300 for the Recorder of Deeds electronic records management; $410,000 for return to work initiatives at the Workforce Development Office; $449,075 for the Holiday Village exhibit at Rose Tree Park; $250,000 for small business support through the County Mall; $6.1 million for county health department start-up; and $1.9 million for the fit-up service for open spaces.
An additional $24.5 million was allocated in the 2022 budget and included $8 million in lost revenue; $5 million for the contract with Child Care Professional Network; $7.9 million for county health department operating costs; $1 million for the District Attorney’s Gun Violence Prevention Program; and $2.5 million for COVID response costs.
Of the remaining $76 million, $15 million could be set aside for $5 million per year in estimated lost revenue from 2021 to 2023; $15 million for county health department operating costs between 2023 and 2024; $5 million for ongoing COVID response; and $2 million for administrative expenses.
In September, county officials held a meeting specifically to sound out public opinion on what to do with the remaining funds.
From this discussion, a $40 million demand list was created, including distributions to the County Mall and Workforce Development Office in the amount of $250,000 for the transfer of degrees, $275,000 for programming training, $30 million for development loans/funds, $3 million for a “Develop in Delco” initiative, and $3 million for marketing.
Other items earmarked for the Office of the Public Defender include $482,480, $435,600 for early parole programs for young adults, $1.2 million for the Branching Up work readiness program, 831 $816 for the PHS Green Resource Center and $905,500 for YEAH Delco,
The Board commented on these distributions.
County Councilwoman Christine Reuther asked about the use of ARPA funds for the $800,000 needed to fund a two-year contract with Partners for Justice.
“This project will only be successful if we can provide the necessary services,” she said. “I think we need to be prepared to not just spend the $800,000, but to spend what Human Services tells us they need to make corresponding improvements to their system.” I would take that $800,000 and double it as something to come out of the budget for ARPA funds over the next two years.
And although there was a suggestion of giving loans to homeowners, Reuther thought it was a great idea and wondered if it might be plausible through financial institutions with loan obligations. community or philanthropic organizations.
Reuther said she would like to see some of the money spent on setting up a matching grant program with municipalities to deal with water seepage into their sewage systems, adding that capacity is a huge problem with long term impacts.
“No matter who owns DELCORA and who operates it, the future of sewer billing is flow-based and being able to reduce those flows will save people money,” said she said, adding that it would also be a job-creating engine.
Council Vice-Chair Elaine Paul Schaefer said priority should be given to projects and initiatives that will have that effect this year and next, noting an economic assessment of the county that will be ready in March with recommendations. on how to stimulate economic activity.
She talked about $2 million for the Lansdowne Theater which would have a big impact on that community.
“We should focus on items that we know are ready to go, that will have an immediate, positive economic impact and put people to work today and have a ripple effect tomorrow,” Schaefer said. “That’s what this money is for – to kick-start our economy and get everything back up and running.”
Councilman Kevin Madden said he would like to see funding for efforts to move away from waste incineration and towards zero waste, such as helping municipalities improve their recycling while reducing the flow of waste. waste.
Councilor Richard Womack said helping municipalities in financial difficulty to maintain their communities would be appropriate.
“We should try to reach out to these smaller municipalities to see what their concerns and needs are and how we can help kick-start their economy as well,” he said.
Comptroller Joanne Phillips suggested setting up online polls, similar to those done in other counties, where the public can continue to make suggestions about where CARES and ARPA funds should go.