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Blair seeking $11M in aid

County applies for state CARES grant

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County is seeking $11 million from a COVID-19 County Relief Block Grant program being set up by the state with funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

County Administrator Nicole Hemminger said Wednesday that the application was finished in time to meet the state’s deadline referenced during Tuesday’s weekly commissioners meeting.

The state came out with the guidelines a week ago and required counties to have their applications submitted within five days.

Commissioners Laura Burke and Amy Webster praised fellow commissioner Bruce Erb, who worked with Hemminger and Finance Director Jennifer Sleppy to get the application prepared.

While state guidelines list 10 purposes the grant can be used for, Hemminger said the county’s grant application doesn’t contain a list of proposed expenditures or spending priorities.

The $11 million, she said, was based on a funding formula and Blair County’s population.

State guidelines also indicate that grants will reflect a share of $625 million available to divide among 60 qualified counties in the state, with a minimum grant of $1 million for counties with smaller populations.

The money was included in the federal CARES Act and referenced in Act 24 of 2020 signed by Gov. Tom Wolf on May 29.

“This new funding will help Pennsylvania counties repair, recover and reimagine the future that is waiting post-COVID-19,” Dennis Davin, secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development, said recently last week when releasing the guidelines for the grants.

“It’s going to be extremely helpful,” Erb said during Tuesday’s weekly commissioners meeting where he, Burke and Webster cast a unanimous vote in favor of applying. “We’ve never received a grant of this size.”

If and when the COVID-19 county relief block grant is awarded, the state describes the following as eligible expenditures, as incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30, 2020:

* Offsetting cost of direct county response, planning and outreach efforts.

* Purchase of personal protective equipment in response to the pandemic.

* Administration of the grant by the county of no more than 2 percent of the funds received or $200,000, whichever is less.

* Assistance to the county’s municipalities for response and planning efforts, including purchase of personal protective equipment.

* Small business grants for businesses with fewer than 100 employees that did not receive funding through the federal Paycheck Protection Program or the Economic injury Disaster Loan Program, under the CARES Act.

* Support for tourism businesses of all sizes, including state and county fairs.

* Grants to support costs of assisting businesses during COVID-19.

* Behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment services.

* Broadband deployment with priority to unserved and underserved areas.

* Nonprofit assistance programs for 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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