CLEARFIELD – Clearfield County is receiving over $7.1 million in coronavirus relief, and the board of commissioners is looking to help local communities recover from the pandemic.
In June, Gov. Tom Wolf announced the disbursement of $625 million to 60 Pennsylvania counties through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Clearfield County was eligible to apply to the COVID-19 County Relief Block Grant Program through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
On Tuesday Commissioner Chairman Tony Scotto said that the county is receiving funds totaling $7,157,429 for COVID-19-related expenses.
He said the county has certain projects in mind, such as software in the Prothonotary/Clerk of Courts office that will allow the public to file paperwork and obtain records online.
“It will limit the number of people coming in and out of the courthouse,” he said, adding consideration is also being given to equipment to enable temperature screenings at the door.
Scotto said the county has a “rough” idea of what funding amounts will be spent in what areas, but stressed there is room for flexibility and to change areas of focus, if necessary.
He said the most important area is the small business grant program, and if they receive a number of applications and it surpasses the allocated amount, they could allocate more.
Scotto also said because the county must spend the funding by Dec. 31, the commissioners may find they can’t complete a project and that funding could be put towards something else.
“We can always shift our priorities to help our communities as much as we can,” he said.
Aid for Local Municipalities
Funds will be dispersed to aid municipalities with recouping expenses for direct COVID-19 response, planning efforts, personal protective equipment, telework equipment/software, etc.
The county’s special counsel – Zelenkofske Axelrod LLC – will conduct a webinar via Zoom for municipal leaders at 9:30 a.m. Friday, July 17.
Commissioner Dave Glass said all municipalities were notified via e-mail of the webinar, which will detail the application process and eligible uses for the funding.
He said any municipality that didn’t receive the webinar information or that has questions should contact the commissioner’s office.
Small Business Grant Program
Glass said small business grants will soon be available to local businesses with fewer than 100 employees that suffered losses from interruption of business during the shutdown.
He said that priority will be given to those that didn’t receive funding through the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) or other COVID relief programs.
“I would encourage everyone to apply, but we will prioritize those that haven’t been able to get funding from other sources,” Glass said.
Glass said the county is setting up an online application process for municipal leaders and small business owners to submit their grant applications. More information will be forthcoming.
“We have to spend these funds by Dec. 31,” Scotto said, “and we have every intention to provide aid to our municipalities and small businesses, as well as to our own people and infrastructure.”
Glass noted the county has set some funding aside to expand the county’s broadband Internet access to unserved or underserved areas.
However, he said any project must be completed by the end of the year, and that would be extremely difficult with a project of this magnitude.
He said the county also has plans for a lot of technology upgrades in the event employees would need to switch to telework in the future.
Commissioner John Sobel reminded that change is a given with the funding guidelines updating practically daily, so people should keep their eyes and ears open for the most up-to-date information.
“Our intent is to get as much of this funding into the community as we can obviously,” he said, “because the communities of Clearfield County have been seriously impacted by the COVID-19 virus.”
Sobel continued, emphasizing that: “These will be grants, not loans, so there will be parameters that entities must follow in order to obtain the funds.”