BROOKVILLE — The Jefferson County Commissioners discussed the possibilities of the American Rescue Plan funds, and the ever changing requirements of usage of the funds during the meeting on Tuesday morning.
Commissioner Jeff Pisarcik said the American Rescue Plan funds are “very confusing,” because the rules and regulations on how to use it have been hard to understand and “changes by the week.” He said they have weekly phone calls during which some of the guidelines often change.
“We are putting a plan, a wishlist, here at the county of projects that we would like to see...It all has to be COVID related,” Pisarcik said.
He said the commissioners are not in a hurry to set a plan because of the way things keep changing, and they are hoping to have a better answer by the end of the year. They have been working closely through conference calls with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, and the National Association of County Commissioners.
“The overall theme is setting up the county for decades to come. What we’re tying to do is take this pool of money, this is an opportunity that doesn’t come along that often, and whether its infrastructure, whether its sewer, water other things, how do you maximize that dollar to benefit the citizens of Jefferson county for years to come? And that’s the overarching theme. What we don’t want to do is put money that will just evaporate in a couple of years,” Jack Matson said, county commissioner.
One of the projects the three have been discussing investing in is broadband, but they worry that if they invest much money into this the technology will just be obsolete in a few years.
“We’re really trying to be prudent. Long term goals are keeping the tax base low and the quality of life high around here,” Matson said.
Pisarcik added they are being cautious about what will happen in three years once the money is gone.
“If you invest money into a project that in year three won’t survive, it’s a waste of a lot of good monies that could go somewhere else. There’s a lot of behind the scenes that you have to swim through all this stuff they’re putting out there and hopefully we’ll get it figured out,” Pisarcik said.
According to Pisarcik, the projects this money will be used for have to be in place by 2024, and the money has been spent by the end of 2026.
“There’s a team that works with us to help decide all this. In all the time that we get this money, if you think you qualify, we’re going to tell you to reach out for it,” said Herb Bullers, county commissioner.
He said that with the CARES Act money they heard from many people complaining they didn’t get any of the money. He said the commissioner found in many instances people assumed they wouldn’t qualify and didn’t reach out about it at all.
“You don’t know if you qualify unless you ask… We want to make sure people understand, if in doubt, get something in, get on the list,” Bullers said.
The commissioners also approved entering into an agreement with Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC for the monitoring of expenditures of the various COVID-19 pandemic related federal and state grant money. Pisarcik said this is because of how extensive the records of how this money is used have to be.