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County allocates $3.4 million in COVID relief

LOCK HAVEN — After weeks of toiling over nearly 100 applications requesting more than $8 million, the Clinton County commissioners on Thursday announced recipients of the $3.4 million CARES Relief Block Grant program.

The money for this program comes to county government from federal CARES Act funding and is designed to support small businesses, nonprofits and municipalities in Clinton County who have sustained losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Guidance provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development approved six categories that qualify for distribution.

The categories and the amount of funding allocated by the county commissioners for Clinton County includes: Nonprofits – $276,334; First Responders – $285,000; Behaviorial Health – $168,200; Small Business – $488,458; Tourism – $217,807; Municipalities – $457,006, and County Departments – $1.4 million.

It certainly wasn’t an easy task, the commissioners related, noting the many meetings they held and the work of the county’s planning department administering, collecting, organizing and often times meeting with applicants.

“We tried to give something to everyone who applied,” said Commissioner Miles Kessinger. “Although some may not get what they asked for, most of those I talked to said they would be glad to get anything we could give them. We gave as much money as we could. We hope it helps them out.”

Commissioner Jeff Snyder noted that there were guidelines to follow.

Non-applicable expenses include preparation for future outbreaks, revenue loss, debt service, capital improvement projects that are not directly related to mitigation/prevention, and damages covered by insurance.

“It was really important to us that we fund fire departments who have been unable to have fundraisers. We gave each one that applied $15,000 and $30,000 to the ambulance associations,” Snyder said.

Clinton County is the largest recipient. The county portion ($1.4 million) covers all costs incurred due to the pandemic. Expenses covered include: health insurance for furloughed staff, COVID leave for quarantined employees, upgraded equipment for all departments to telework, increase to the server capacity for connection and video usage, hazard pay, sheriff’s department pay, election employees to process the mail-in ballot process and each department’s expenses in relation to mitigating the pandemic.

Additionally, the county will be using the funds to purchase programs and install measures that will make it easier for the public to access information without entering the Piper Building specifically.

“Much of what we allocated to the county departments will help offset future expenditures in the coming year and provide an opportunity for our employees and departments to work remotely should this type of situation occur in the future,” Kessinger said. “We focused on technology upgrades for all departments that will prevent the need to purchase those items for several years if not more.”

“Unfortunately, there are limitations to what we can and cannot fund. We have continually asked the governor and our legislators to advocate for us to have more leeway in what is an acceptable expense and to extend the length of time grantees have to spend the grants,” Snyder said.

For those who have been granted funding, Kessinger said the planning commission will immediately be sending them letters, which they will have to sign and send back awknowledging they have accepted the rules.

“Then we’ll start issuing checks,” Kessinger said, noting that the county has already received the money from the federal government and it is in a special account.

Meanwhile, the county still has $62,421 of the $3.4 million to be used for unrecognized costs and/or future distribution. That money must be spent before Dec. 30.

And Kessinger promised that all of the money will be spent before the deadline. “We will use it. We have applicants,” he said.

In other business at Thursday’s meeting, the commissioners:

— Hired Rebecca Reed as a caseworker in Children and Youth Services, effective Sept. 28, at an annual salary of $34,568. She fills a vacancy created in March, but due to the coronavirus, the position was not filled until now.

— Presented a (CCAP) County Commissioners of Pennsylvania award to Cathy Dremel, county Human Resources director, recognizing her outstanding efforts to reduce Workers Compensation costs in Clinton County.

— Confirmed the resignation of Steve Hinman, part-time security officer at the courthouse, effective Sept. 18. Hinman has been employed by the county for 13 years.

— Hired Michael Fitzpatrick as temporary part-time IT technician, effective Sept. 28 through Dec. 31, at a rate of $12 an hour not to exceed 1,000 hours annually.

— Approved renewal of the General and Professional Liability Insurance policy with John L,. Kirby and Associates Inc. for the Reach Out Mentoring Program, effective Sept. 12, 2020 through Sept. 12, 2021, at a cost of $2,395.

— Approved a contract with Chris Herrick for a virtual magic show for the Reach Out Mentoring Program participants. It was noted that the event was paid with donations.

— Approved county bills in the amount of $629,938 and net payroll in the amount of $277,681 for the two-week period ending Sept. 18.

The county commissioners will continue to meet biweekly on Mondays at 9 a.m. for their work session and Thursdays at 10 a.m. for their regular meeting, in the pavilion outside the Piper Building.

The next meeting of the commissioners is a work session on Monday, Sept. 28, and a regular meeting on Thursday, Oct. 1.

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