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Blair divvys up $5M in COVID-19 aid

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County will divide $5 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act among eight categories as a step toward gauging local interest in grants to cover COVID-19-related expenses and revenue losses.

If interest is stronger in one category over another, then commissioners can consider reallocations, County Administrator/Chief Clerk Nicole Hemminger told commissioners Wednesday.

Commissioners, who convened a special meeting focusing on the county’s $11 million allocation from the CARES Act, voted in favor of a resolution dividing $5 million among eight categories, as recommended by Hemminger and Finance Director Jennifer Sleppy. The remaining $6 million is to be divided later.

“This resolution will get us off the ground,” Hemminger said.

Organizations, businesses and municipalities that believe they are eligible for a portion of the allocations will need to file a grant application that is under development. It should be ready by Sept. 1 to access from the county’s website, Hemminger said.

Based on Wednesday’s action, grant requests must fit into one of the following categories currently funded as follows:

* To offset the cost of the county’s COVID-19 direct response, planning and outreach efforts, including the purchase of personal protective equipment — $1 million.

* Grant programs to support certain small businesses, which must have fewer than 100 employees, and received no Paycheck Protection Program funding — $700,000.

* Grant programs to support certain designated types of entities for costs related to assisting businesses during the COVID-19 disaster emergency — $300,000.

* Assistance to municipalities within Blair County for COVID-19 response and planning efforts, including the purchase of personal protective equipment — $800,000.

* Behavioral health and substance abuse disorder treatment services — $500,000.

* Nonprofit assistance programs for tax-exempt entities covered by Section 501(c)3 and 501(c)(19) under the Internal Revenue Service Code — $500,000.

* Broadband internet deployment, with priority given to unserved or underserved areas — $1 million.

* Grant administration — $200,000.

Corey Troutman with Susquehanna Accounting Services of Harrisburg, the firm the county hired to manage the $11 million grant, told commissioners that the application will need supportive details regarding what expenses were incurred and/or what revenue was lost due to COVID-19.

Commissioners Chairman Bruce Erb asked Troutman what happens if an approved request for funds is deemed ineligible.

The money would have to be returned, Troutman said.

Troutman said eligible expenses include personal protective equipment, clear shields, sanitizers and quarantine-related expenses. He said expenses to be covered with the CARES money cannot also be covered by money from another source or by insurance.

“There’s no double-dipping,” he said.

Other Pennsylvania counties are embarking on or are in the midst of a similar process to distribute their CARES Act allocations.

In Venango County, commissioners posted a grant application about two weeks ago and had 147 applications filed within a week, mostly from businesses and a few from nonprofit groups. Venango County has $4.5 million to divide.

In York County, which is receiving $40.5 million from the CARES Act, commissioners voted Wednesday to designate $10 million for small business support and $4 million for nonprofit groups.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.

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