Luzerne County government eyeing small business aid

Luzerne County’s administration is engaged on a proposal to make use of a number of the county’s $113 million American Rescue Plan allocation to supply funding to small companies.
The county’s financial system relies on small companies, and lots of of them are struggling attributable to staffing, inflation and persevering with results of the COVID-19 pandemic, county Acting Manager Romilda Crocamo instructed council final week.
“We’d prefer to roll out the small business program to council first so the cash can get into the arms of business homeowners,” Crocamo stated.
The administration expects to current the small business proposal at council’s subsequent assembly on Jan. 25, Crocamo stated.
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It will likely be modeled after the county’s earlier small business help program supplied final yr by way of a special federal restoration funding supply — the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, she stated.
The county had saved $11.8 million of its $28.66 million in CARES Act funding to cowl bills however allotted the remainder to small companies and different entities.
More than 679 county small companies acquired grants in that program.
Regional financial improvement group Penn’s Northeast helped to manage the small business program for the county, with help from the Community First Fund. An on-line portal was set as much as settle for purposes.
Council vote
Council and the administration had postponed selections on main expenditures from the American Rescue funding till the discharge of ultimate federal guidelines detailing allowable initiatives and purchases. Those guidelines had been launched Jan. 6.
To date, council members have solely permitted the usage of $924,000 to cowl this yr’s county’s public transportation matches.
The county doesn’t should decide to an American Rescue allocation plan till the top of 2024 and has till the top of 2026 to spend the cash. It acquired $56.4 million, however the different half is just not anticipated to reach till May, officers have stated.
In addition to small business help, doable funding makes use of mentioned at county conferences have included stormwater initiatives and levee enhancements .
County departments even have proposed initiatives, corresponding to jail repairs and data expertise upgrades.
There’s additionally a “misplaced income” class of American Rescue funds to cowl government companies.
County officers had conservatively estimated as much as $6 million can be allowable for misplaced income.
However, the ultimate federal guidelines now permit counties to make use of as much as $10 million for the supply of government companies with out having to finish a “difficult income loss calculation,” Crocamo instructed council final week.
She briefed council on different adjustments that can present extra flexibility, saying the ultimate American Rescue guidelines:
• Allow funds for use for cybersecurity and pc {hardware}/software program modernization and current and new broadband infrastructure.
• Expand eligible makes use of for water and sewer initiatives to incorporate culvert restore, dam and reservoir rehabilitation and stormwater infrastructure.
• Clarify how counties can spend the funds for sure capital expenditures to reply to public well being and financial impacts.
• Streamline choices to supply premium pay by broadening the share of eligible staff.
• Provide an expanded set of households and communities which are presumed to be impacted and disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, permitting the county to fund responsive companies with out extra evaluation. Examples of packages now eligible for this inhabitants embrace: inexpensive housing, childcare and early studying and companies to handle studying loss through the pandemic. Certain neighborhood improvement and neighborhood revitalization initiatives additionally might qualify for funding in disproportionately impacted communities.
Describing the brand new guidelines as “voluminous,” Crocamo stated the administration has been attending varied webinars to agency up the county’s choices.

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