Welcome to the September 2021, issue of Newtown News Update. Back issues and subscribing information can be found here. The opinions expressed here are solely the those of John Mack and do not reflect the opinions of any other person or entity. Download the complete printable PDF version.
Part 2: How to Spend American Rescue Funds
On June 29, 2021, the Township received the first deposit of American COVID Rescue Fund money totaling $1,024,920.93. This money is the first of two payments thanks to the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act. The second payment will be received in June 2022. In May, the U.S. Treasury released an interim final rule for the American Rescue Plan. Download a fact sheet on the 151-page regulation, which provides guidance about eligible uses of the funds.
The Township can spend these funds on:
- Response to COVID-19 emergency or negative economic impacts. This includes, but is not limited to, assistance for households, small businesses, non-profits (including volunteer fire companies whose fundraising may have taken a hit during COVID-19), and aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality.
- Premium pay for essential workers. Can pay a bonus to workers. Up to $25K each. Could be paid in a lump sum as long as you don’t violate $13/hour rule. Public and private employees. “Essential workers only”. Backpay is most likely ok. Fire Company block grants, police - ok.
- Lost revenue replacement. The revenue deficit must be as a direct result of COVID-19, and could apply from 2020 through 2024. 2019 is used as the “base year” with which to compare revenues. Applies to tax revenue, liquid fuels, etc.
- Infrastructure investment. Drinking water, storm water, sewer, broadband hot spots, but you can’t spend it on roads and bridges. Roads and bridges may come in the fall.
- Can use for construction for larger meeting space or technology for remote meetings.
- If Township-owned parks were impacted due to COVID-19 (more use), you could use to repair/maintain them.
Although the township has until the end of 2024 to spend its $2 million+ in relief funds, some of this money can be spent in 2022 as indicated above and thereby relieve some pressure on the budget. Hopefully, that means no tax increase!
On May 14, 2021, the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS) hosted a virtual Town Hall webinars focused on the ins and outs of American Rescue Plan Act funding for townships such as Newtown (listen to audio snippets from Part 1 and Part 2 of these webinars). While the guidelines for permitted uses of this money have not yet been finalized, according to PSATS experts there are several uses that are likely to be approved, including loans, grants, and technical assistance to small businesses and 501c(3) non-profits.
Support for Non-Profits & Small Businesses
At the August 11, 2021, BOS meeting, Newtown Friends Home & Village Board Chairman Terry Christiansen asked if there is a process in place whereby non-profit groups such as his can apply for a share of ARP funds that the township has received.
Figure 1: Newtown Friends Home & Village Board Chairman Terry Christiansen Comments Before BOS Regarding Applying ARP Funds. View the video on Youtube.
To answer Mr. Christiansen's question, to date (September 8, 2021), there is no such procedure yet in place for non-profits, small businesses, etc. to request a share of ARP funds that Newtown Township has in the bank.
What SHOULD The Money Be Used For?
I'm sure there will be a long line of requests for these funds and supervisors will have to weigh all the options. Most importantly, in my opinion, are the opinions of township residents. Consequently, I started a survey in April, 2021, to gauge the opinions of residents. The following is a summary of results to date (September 10, 2021) based on 433 responses from Newtown Township residents (out of a total of 477 responses).
Figure 2: Summary of Survey Results: What Should Newtown Spend Federal COVID-19 Relief Funds On? The responses range from rating 1=Low Level of Support to rating 5=High Level of Support.
The summary of survey results, organized by rating (choices with the highest ratings at top) is shown in above chart. Another way of looking at the data is shown in chart below.
Figure 3: Survey Results By Rank. 1=Low Level of Support, 5=High Level of Support. See Figure 2 to identify the choices, which are designated A through H.