Franklin County: CARES funding essential to community
The $14+ million doled out to Franklin County Commissioners in CARES Act funding was absolutely essential in holding the line on local taxes at a time when the Coronavirus pandemic was wreaking havoc on local governments and citizens alike.
In response to questions by Franklin County Free Press, commissioners reported the county received $14,000,311 in CARES Act funding.
“This CARES funding has been absolutely essential in helping the county and other municipalities avoid having to raise taxes to pay for COVID-19 related expenses,” Commission Chairman David Keller said.
How it was distributed
Almost $1 million of it went to local municipalities, according to the county’s CARES distribution dashboard. Of eight local municipalities that applied, six were eligible for funding. The grants cover costs associated with emergency services, wages, personal protective equipment, sanitization materials and related pandemic costs.
Another $5.6 million went to small businesses who suffered losses as a result of Gov. Tom Wolf’s shutdowns or limitations on customer contacts during the last nine months. Those grants helped the county’s small businesses stay in business, or reopen after, the COVID pandemic.
The hospitality industry receive the lion’s share — more than 40% — of that funding. Restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues, including museums, movie theaters and casinos were completely shut down for a second time in December as COVID-19 cases surged across the state.
“(This money) has been critically important in helping small businesses in the county stay in business,” Keller said.
Helping agencies care for the public
A total of $1.44 million went to non-profit agencies, such as social services, First Responders, Arts organizations, historical societies, community services, libraries and animal welfare groups.
“These funds were vital to sustaining the missions and operations of nonprofits which rely heavily on fundraising to make ends meet,” Keller said.
Tourism groups received $267,993 in grants; local municipalities qualified for $963,000; and local schools got $1.38 million to use for broadband internet initiatives connected to online schooling.
“It provided essential funding for virtual learning and other technology needs, helping school districts enhance learning opportunities for students,” he said.
Grant awards totaled $9,650,993.00, or just over two-thirds of the total received by the county.
Federal guidance allowed for the county to use CARES Act funding for reimbursement of its own pandemic-related expenses.
$4.35 million in county expenditures
- $349,000 – General County Response to Covid-19 (i.e. Items for remote work, hand sanitizer, disinfectants, etc.)
- $818,000 – Personal Protective Equipment (with $458,000 of this distributed to First Responder agencies in the community)
- $60,000 – Grant Administration (this is 30% of the $200,000 allowable amount)
- $3,122,318.00 – Personnel costs for staff substantially dedicated to responding to Covid-19
Those personnel costsfor staff included Franklin County Jail Officers, Adult and Juvenile Probation Officers, and Sheriff’s Deputies.
CARES funding lessened the financial burden of COVID-19 on the County’s General Fund, which is funded in large part with taxpayer dollars, according to commissioners. That, they said, in turn made possible a 2021 budget based on a stable tax rate, benefiting county property owners.