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Coronavirus in Schuylkill County

Schuylkill Commissioners Want to Bring Back CARES Act Consulting Firm for Another Year

Schuylkill County Commissioners will vote Wednesday on whether to retain the services of one of the consulting firms that helped it bungle the $12.7 million in CARES Act money it received in 2020.

On the agenda for the Jan. 13 Commissioners meeting is a proposed motion to approve Susquehanna Accounting & Consulting Solutions Inc. for a 1-year/$50,000 contract to “provide technical consulting” to the county government from Jan. 4-Dec. 31, 2021.

Of course, this contract is back-dated to Jan. 4 because the Commissioners couldn’t have brought this up at their last public meeting on Jan. 6. Oh wait, they could have but didn’t. So, this is essentially a done deal but we’re only finding out about it now, after the company’s been working for the Commissioners for a week.

Schuylkill Commissioners to Retain Consulting Firm That Helped Oversee the Bungled CARES Act Money

Susquehanna was one of two firms hired by the County Commissioners to help navigate apparent rules that revolved around how they spent the more than $12.7 million in CARES Act money received in 2020 from the state via the federal government. Schuylkill Commissioners mostly botched their handling of that money and in the end, apparently used most of it to plug holes in their 2021 budget.

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The money was supposed to be used to help the county mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and make up for any extra expenses it incurred from that. Money should have also be used to create a grant program for small businesses and other organizations affected negatively by the COVID mitigation orders issued by the state and federal government and backed by the Commissioners themselves.

But the County only used about 7% of that CARES Act money to help small businesses. And it could have been much less if they weren’t peppered for months to actually create that grant program. When they did announce the program, they didn’t do it directly, instead leaning on other business organizations to do the heavy lifting. While the Commissioners celebrated their efforts in spending that CARES Act money, practically no one was celebrating along with them.

In fact, the County has been widely criticized for how it handled that CARES Act funding, including by a Commissioner from nearby Carbon County, who publicly said to “send in the auditors” after seeing a report that showed our Commissioners used some of this money to address payroll shortfalls for 2021.

Now, all this questionable spending was apparently OK’d by this consulting firm. And after doing such a bang-up job for the Schuylkill County Commissioners in 2020, our elected officials want to bring them back for another year. It’s not specified on the agenda what type of consulting that Susquehanna will do in 2021.

To listen to the Jan. 13 meeting via Zoom, first be sure to turn up your speakers and kill any potential interfering noises. After months of hosting meetings on Zoom, the Commissioners and county officials still can’t host a fully audible Zoom call.

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To get access to the call, follow these instructions:

  • Phone 301-715-8592
  • Enter Meeting ID: 947 8500 6202, followed by the pound (#) sign.
  • Enter the Passcode: 091660

Here’s the public agenda for the Schuylkill County Commissioners meeting on Jan. 13, 2021: 1-13-21 Comm Agenda

 

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