Schuylkill County Commissioners recently heard how they spent money they got from the federal American Rescue Plan Act.
Locally, we got about $26 million – half delivered last year and the second bit coming in 2022 – but how the Courthouse has decided to spend that money has largely been a mystery.
Back on April 27, Mark Morgan, who works with the accounting firm hired by Schuylkill County to administer that money, presented Commissioners with a first-quarter spending report. In it, he detailed how Schuylkill County government has spent ARPA funds during the first three months of 2022.
Schuylkill County Divulges American Rescue Plan Spending During Q1-2022
In total, Morgan said, Schuylkill County spent $261,784.83 of its Rescue Plan money during the first quarter of 2022.
Here’s a look at how that money was spent:
On Social Distancing Measures at Children & Youth Headquarters
The County says it spent $82,486.38 at the Children & Youth headquarters on N. Centre St. and Laurel Blvd. in downtown Pottsville. This was categorized as a public health project and Morgan says what was done allows for more social distancing among employees and the public who enter the building.
On a New Vehicle for the Coroner’s Office
Another $45,725.09 of the County’s Rescue Plan funds went to purchase a new pickup truck for the Schuylkill County Coroner’s office.
Morgan, for some reason, was really excited about this particular use of the Rescue Plan funds. He dumped a bucket of Gatorade (figuratively speaking) on the Commissioners, the County Administrator and the Finance Director for this particular decision.
He also explained to those, in general, who might be skeptical of this new vehicle’s value to the Coroner’s office.
“This really mitigated the COVID transmission risk in the corpses infected with COVID,” Morgan said during his presentation. “We are self-insured. If we have a Coroner’s office employee that comes down with COVID and has serious medical loss from hospitalization, $45,000 is a drop in the bucket.”
Morgan says he’s administering another county’s Rescue Plan funds and noted how 2 employees there developed COVID and their medical bills are more than $2 million each.
He said this new vehicle for the Coroner’s office helps by “eliminating that risk” because decedents that are collected by the County are segregated from the drivers. Of course, he’s not accounting for how those bodies get into the vehicle.
On a Lavish “Technology Improvements” Project
The big-ticket expense during the first quarter, however, is being labeled as “technology improvements” including increasing the ability to allow for remote work and cybersecurity. That bill comes to $133,573.36.
Two weeks before Morgan’s presentation, the County actually agreed to spend far more of the Rescue Plan funds for “technology improvements” at the Courthouse. Here’s how that broke down:
- $262,000 for replace 10 file servers
- $110,000 for a “cyber security infrastructure project”
- $355,954 for MS365 cloud apps service for County offices
Keep in mind, this was just a first-quarter report from Morgan. So, the County is saying it only spent a fraction of the money on this technology spree during the first quarter.
More ARPA Spending Coming
Morgan said the ARPA spending will intensify into the second quarter of 2022, especially now that the Treasury Dept. has finalized rules on how the money can be spent by local governments. In giving some hints about how the money will be going out in the coming months, he did note that local governments across Pennsylvania are taking advantage of a $10 million lost revenue clause that allows a governing body that’s received ARPA funds to claim that much to account for revenue already lost and expected revenue loss in the future.
It wouldn’t surprise us if the County did exactly that, so you can kiss $10 million of the $26 million or so goodbye already.
As far as other expenses go, here’s what Morgan said will be going out in the second quarter from ARPA funds:
He mentioned that the County is also set to spend $460,000 from its Rescue Plan money to fund previous local applicants to the CHIRP grant program aimed at hospitality businesses.
“COVID self-insured medical expenses” will also come out of Rescue Plan funds during the second quarter, Morgan said. He said from March 2021 to March 2022, Schuylkill County government employees racked up $284,000 in COVID-related medical expenses.
The rest of that technology upgrade will likely come out during the second quarter, too.