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Blair leaders: $11M grant incoming

HOLLIDAYSBURG — Blair County leaders confirmed Tuesday that an $11 million grant is forthcoming to help the county’s small businesses, non-profits and local governments address relief and recovery expenses related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

County leaders acknowledged the pending receipt during Tuesday’s weekly meeting where they voted unanimously to sign a contract with a Harrisburg-area accounting firm, Susquehanna Accounting & Consulting Solutions Inc., for management of the COVID-19 County Relief Block Grant Program.

Commissioners also voted in favor of setting up a bank account, at First National Bank of Hollidaysburg, for receipt and expenditure of grant money that would be kept separate from other county money.

Susquehanna Accounting & Consulting Solutions has “significant experience” with the state Department of Community and Economic Development, commissioners Chairman Bruce Erb said in reference to the state agency that will distribute and monitor use of COVID-19 block grant dollars.

Because Susquehanna Accounting is working with Allegheny County that has already received a COVID-19 block grant from DCED, Erb said he believes the company is already familiar with some of the rules.

The grant, allocated by the state with money from the federal CARES Act, sets aside up to $200,000 for grant administration costs. So no county real estate tax dollars will be needed to cover the contract with Susquehanna Accounting, Erb said.

As approved Tuesday, the contract designates the following fees: $275 per hour for a director, $195 for a senior managing consultant, $175 per hour for a senior consultant and $125 for a consultant.

Commissioners did not address caps on the amount of hours.

When Commissioner Laura Burke asked who Susquehanna’s personnel will work under, Erb said he expects their personnel will work with County Administrator Nicole Hemminger and Finance Director Jennifer Sleppy, while coming to the commissioners for decisions.

DCED, which is distributing COVID-19 block grant money to counties, has offered some examples of eligible expenses on its website. They include allocations to offset money spent in responding to the pandemic, small business grants, behavioral health and substance use disorder treatment expenses, broadband deployment to unserved and underserved areas and nonprofit assistance programs to select organizations.

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