Rescue plan

Lancaster County communities assess uses of US bailout funds |

The basketball court at Elizabeth Township Municipal Park has not been renovated since it was installed in 1998.

Upgrades were never included in the budget.

That changed last year after supervisors learned the township — home to villages like Brickerville, Elm and Poplar Grove — would receive more than $418,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds. Overseers voted to spend part of it improving the land.

It’s the type of project residents of many Lancaster County communities may see more of this year as township supervisors and borough council members decide what to do with the money.

When it comes to where officials choose to spend bailout money, a lot of attention is being paid to Lancaster County and the City of Lancaster, which received $106 million and $39.5 million, respectively. dollars. County leaders have presented plans for only a fraction of that. City officials polled residents on what they thought the money should go to while committing part of the gate — like $5 million for affordable housing projects.

Add up the American Rescue Plan Act money given to ineligible communities in the county — typically those with fewer than 50,000 residents — and that’s far less than the city and county have to work towards. But a few thousand here and there have some potential for mindful businesses and for nonprofits with compelling presentations.

Projects like this basketball court — which is expected to start once the weather warms — are likely too small to attract bids from major paving companies, said Elizabeth Township Administrator Loren Miller.

“So this kind of thing could be a good win for a mom and a pop,” Miller says.

In the Township of East Cocalico, it has been proposed that a portion of the funds allocated to that township be used to pay farmers who participate in a sediment reduction program. Brecknock Township supervisors have talked about using their funds for a new garage.

They are among several leaders who have discussed possible uses but have not committed to anything until they receive further clarification on how the funds should be spent and reported.

The townships got that clarification in January when the US Treasury Department released a final set of American Rescue Plan Act rules.

Anne Gingerich, a Lancaster resident who serves as executive director of the Pennsylvania Association of Nonprofit Organizations (PANO), hopes more of the allocated money will not only start moving, but start flowing to non-profit organizations.

As of January, more than $6 billion of $7.3 billion in funds the state itself received under the plan remains unspent, Gingerich said.

“Because the state sits on money, so do a lot of local municipalities,” she said. “Not everyone. But many are because they want to hold it back for their bad weather funds. Our comment is, we’re having a tough day as a nonprofit community and those dollars would be extremely helpful. »

The funds can’t sit there too long. Recipients are required to commit their money by the end of 2024 and spend it by the end of 2026.

PANO released a toolkit in February designed to help nonprofits approach elected officials at all levels to share some of the bailout law money with them. This toolkit is available at

“We think based on the relationships they hopefully already have or can build with their local officials, they can make a case for getting some of those dollars for their operations,” said Gingerich.

About 88% of nonprofits in Pennsylvania have annual operating budgets under $500,000, Gingerich said.

“So when you’re so little, you really don’t have time to figure out how to build relationships, which is why we want to release our toolkit,” she said. “Then, on the other hand, many local municipalities and townships have not been able to distribute funds, so they don’t really know how to do it.”

It’s only part of a steep learning curve.

When the American Rescue Plan Act guidelines were first released, they specifically listed permitted uses for the silver, such as sewer and water infrastructure, broadband upgrades, and response to the COVID-19 emergency.

It also allowed for some spending on general projects and uses that don’t fit neatly into any of the specifically stated categories. But he linked the amount that can be spent on broader projects to the amount of revenue lost due to the pandemic. These calculations caused some confusion.

Final rules released in January say communities can now choose to take a standard allowance of up to $10 million in income replacement without calculating anything. Larger municipalities are likely to still calculate losses and see if this method works better for them. But that $10 million cap covers all money allocated to non-eligible communities in Lancaster County. Many of them are likely to opt for this route.

“That means the first $10 million of your ARP dollars can be spent on almost anything that would normally be paid for out of your general fund,” said Holly Fishel, director of policy and research at the PA State Association of Township. supervisors. She was speaking at an ARPA webinar in January.

“Keep in mind that it doesn’t matter if you don’t have real losses,” she told attendees. “It has nothing to do with your ability to take that standard allowance.”

There are a handful of things the money can’t be spent on, like legal settlements or pension plan payments. The January rule revision also added a caveat that the funds cannot be spent on anything that would undermine COVID-19 mitigation efforts.

During the virtual town hall, Fishel answered questions submitted online, including some asking for confirmation that certain projects would be permitted.

“Someone says, ‘And a new salt shed?’ Yeah. It would apply…” she said. “(Like a) snow plow truck would. Guy to operate the snowplow truck. Salt. The place to put the salt.