Times Chronicle & Public Spirit
Montco Recovery Office to designate $161 million in coronavirus funds
Stressing community input, town halls held to gather public opinion
NORRISTOWN » As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the lives of residents in Montgomery County, the Montgomery County Recovery Office is working to designate ways to spend millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 economic relief funding.
Montgomery County received $161.4 million in pandemic recovery funds as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Congress last March enacted the $1.9 trillion stimulus package.
A few months later, Montgomery County launched its own recovery office. Montgomery County’s Deputy Chief Operating Officer Barbara O’Malley offered an introduction of how the newly created entity would assist in allocating the proceeds.
“We’re very excited to begin this work and bring these resources to our residents and communities as quickly and thoughtfully as possible,” O’Malley said during a Montgomery County Board of Commissioners meeting last year.
Tom Bonner, director of the Montgomery County’s Department of Assets and Infrastructure, addressed the trio of county commissioners on Thursday as activity concerning the federal monies.
In working through some of the funding parameters, Bonner specified several eligibility requirements for proposed projects.
They included responding to the public health emergency; responding to negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency; replacing lost public sector revenue; providing premium pay for essential workers; and investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
“Those focus areas are what the recovery office in our dispensation of how we are going to plan for the process of taking in ideas and submissions, that guides the work that we do,” Bonner said.
The funds must be obligated by December 2024, according to Bonner, and spent by Dec. 31, 2026.
“It’s important that people keep this in mind, and we will make no secret of this, simply because we want to make sure the projects are implementable within the timeframe,” Bonner said. “If they are not, we give the money back and we don’t complete the project.”
The proposal window
will open on Feb. 28 and submissions will be accepted until April 30, according to Bonner, who added that a “draft plan will be presented to (the) public for feedback in May.”
Bonner noted those interested in participating can submit online a “project submission,” an “idea submission” or a combination of the two.
Bonner highlighted “key evaluation criteria,” of which several points included “evidence based practices,” “one time nature of funding,” the “measurable impact,” as well as the “project budget and timeline.”
Following the approval of a final plan in June, the “project implementation” process is slated to begin in July, according to Bonner.
In cultivating priorities for the county proceeds of the American Rescue Plan Act funds, Bonner stressed that “the work is guided” by a number of core values including equity, transparency and inclusivity.
“Montgomery County is specifically interested in ensuring that the pandemic recovery funds are used to ensure an equitable recovery, given the disproportionate impact of the pandemic and economic crisis on certain demographic groups, neighborhoods, and
industries over the last two years,” Bonner said in his presentation.
“Investments made through the County’s ARPA funds will allow us to address historic disparities and lay the foundation for a strong and equitable economic recovery,” said Montgomery County Commissioners’ Vice Chairman Ken Lawrence Jr. in a statement issued earlier this week.
Stressing the importance of public participation, organizers will be holding several upcoming town halls for community members to participate before the submission portal opens.