Luzerne County Receives Many Requests for U.S. Bailout Funding

Luzerne County Council received $186.8 million in funding requests from the county’s U.S. federal bailout, far exceeding the roughly $97 million still to be allocated, officials said.

The wishlist came at the request of the council to ensure that no possibility was overlooked. The administration has solicited pre-applications from outside entities to identify options, with responses expected on April 29.

Acting County Manager Brian Swetz released a project request summary sheet of the resulting responses on Friday and informed council members that a thick binder of all requests has been compiled for each of them to view. examine. Those requests total $171.58 million and came from 120 outside entities, according to a review of the summary.

Additionally, county departments have requested $15.26 million for projects, Swetz said.

Former acting director Romilda Crocamo, who ended her employment with the county on Friday, also provided a memo to the board pointing out in bold capitals that pre-applications were not reviewed for eligibility under bailout protocols. Americans from the federal government.

The county administration does not believe the majority of outside requests meet funding requirements under the U.S. Treasury’s final rule, Crocamo said.

The administration is still urging the board to retain Booth Management Consulting, based in Columbia, Md., for $254,706 to provide advice on eligibility screening and funding administration, its memo said. A majority of council rejected the proposal last month, saying the decision should wait until Randy Robertson begins work as the new county manager the week of June 13.

Main requests

The highest requests for external funding, according to a summary sheet published by Swetz:

• $41.7 million to the South Valley Regional Recreation Authority to rehabilitate and create a 33-acre recreation complex

• $15 million for county chambers of commerce to establish a small business sustainability grant program

• $10 million to West Pittston to design and help fund a levee along the Susquehanna River.

• $10 million for the Wyoming Valley Sanitary Authority to complete the modernization, safety and capacity upgrade of several sewer modules

The Greater Hazleton Joint Sewer Authority requested $5.5 million to separate a combined sewer system and install a new one.

In downtown Wilkes-Barre, $5.2 million has been requested for a homelessness center and to expand the Diamond City Partnership’s Clean and Safe Ambassador program, he said.

The borough of Penn Lake Park has requested $3.5 million to rehabilitate and replace its dam, deemed unsafe by the state.

The Township of Rice is requesting $3 million to build a multi-purpose community center.

Based on the diversity of requests, the administration recommends that the council group the requests into categories – county projects, nonprofits, small business assistance and others.

For municipal applications, the administration advised the board to review how those jurisdictions spent the direct U.S. bailout allocations they received for their municipalities, Crocamo’s memo said.

The administration discourages the council from distributing funds directly to households or individual businesses, he said.

“To move forward in this process, only eligible projects should be considered for funding. Also, the amount of matching funds should be considered, as well as whether the project is ready to go ahead,” the memo reads.

The county doesn’t have to commit to an American Rescue stipend plan until the end of 2024 and has until the end of 2026 to spend the money.

Within the county government, the $15.26 million in outstanding requests include a series of projects to address maintenance and public safety needs.

Allocations to date

The county is receiving a total of $112.89 million in US bailout funds and has already earmarked nearly $16 million.

Allocations approved by the board to date: $500,000 each for two land banks targeting blight in Hazleton and the Pittston area; up to $8 million to the County Flood Protection Authority, which oversees Wyoming’s Valley Levee along the Susquehanna; $924,000 for county transit transfers; $4 million for county jail repairs and information technology needs; and $2 million to help pay for the construction of a rain garden and shoreline restoration, which will create a $2 million credit so the county government does not have to pay stormwater fees until credit runs out.

Regardless of that count, council is due to vote Tuesday on another proposal to use $600,000 in U.S. bailout funds to redo county-owned Kirby Avenue in Fairview Township.

Most U.S. relief funds cannot be used for road and bridge repairs, the county administration said.

If the council wants to proceed with the Kirby Avenue allotment, it would be covered by a portion of American Rescue funding known as “revenue loss” which is more discretionary, Crocamo had said.

American Rescue funds can be used for government services in the dollar amount of revenue lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials said.

Crocamo had estimated that about $4.5 million of $8.9 million was still available in the “loss of revenue” category for the board to allocate.

Swetz said the revenue loss calculation must be done annually and cannot be counted until the county’s 2021 audit is released.

Specific sections of roads involved in drainage improvement projects may be eligible for American Rescue funding outside of the lost revenue category, Crocamo said.

Contact Jennifer Learn-Andes at 570-991-6388 or on Twitter @TLJenLearnAndes.

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