On Wednesday, Schuylkill County government officials spelled out just how it’s spent the more than $12.7 million in CARES Act funding it received to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
Small businesses, the ones who were most affected by the pandemic when the government forced them to close their doors or severely restrict their activities, will receive just 7.6% of that spent money. That equals $724,401.
The County hasn’t released who will get that money and how much they’ll get but disclosure hasn’t been their specialty since it got this money.
Even the fact that enough businesses were able to apply for a grant to reach this $724K thousand mark is a bit of a surprise. The County only gave businesses about 2 weeks to apply and it failed to make a public announcement on the grant program.
Instead, it relied on the Chamber of Commerce to spread the word. And according to Schuylkill Chamber CEO Bob Carl on Monday, the County even blamed the media for not helping announce it.
It’s hard to do that without a formal announcement from the County and it’s not really the media’s responsibility to do the government’s public relations. We know the Schuylkill County Courthouse has been used to that cozy arrangement for some time with some other outlets but if you don’t even tell them, how can the media do what it wanted?
The reason the County didn’t want to make too much noise with its small business grant program from the CARES Act money is because it didn’t really want to get involved. In recent weeks, the County goes out of its way to explain how tricky it is to create such a grant program. Any misspent dollar by the County and it has to paid back.
That’s why the County has spent $155,000 (1.6%) of that money in administrative fees, alone.
Here’s a look at how the money’s been spent so far:
Schuylkill County CARES Act Spending
|Capital Public Safety
|Small Business Grants
The largest piece of the pie has gone to the County 9-1-1 upgrades. The prison HVAC system gobbled up more than 12% of the spending. Small businesses grants are the third-largest piece of the action but consider that that money is spread over numerous businesses. Municipal and non-profit grants total just 5.8%.
By our calculations, the County still has $3,259,710 remaining from the CARES Act money.
The County announced this spending breakdown as part of a resolution at Wednesday’s weekly board meeting. Details of the resolution were not disclosed in the Public Agenda so no one had a chance to comment on it prior to the meeting.
The final part of the resolution calls for the Finance office to “provide guidance” to the County Controller to move all this money, including the unspent money, to the General Fund and “inactivating” the account where it’d been held. The County says it’s doing this “in the spirit of increasing operational efficiences and enhancing financial reporting.”