NORRISTOWN — As Norristown officials continue to determine how best to allocate federal COVID-19 relief funds, some grievances are erupting in the county seat.
Though considered a lump sum, the proceeds from the $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package must be allocated by 2024 and disbursed by 2026.
Much of the City of Norristown’s $20.2 million has been designated for projects ranging from infrastructure to development, but another $2 million to support small businesses from the American Relief Plans Act Fund in Montgomery County is still in the hands of the local government. Not deposited in the vault. .
The issue has been brought up in the past two meetings between city councilors and city leadership, but to no avail.
“That’s exactly what we’re fighting with the county right now over the $2 million we got,” City Administrator Crandall Jones said at the July 18 city council meeting.
“Unfortunately, most of this money was their idea, so we’ve been fighting that battle. [for] After giving advice on technical assistance, we came back and said, ‘No, we need capital investment to bring the project to life’. The advice part is what they get,” Jones said.
According to Montgomery County Reconstruction Officer Tom Bonner, the funds will further “expand” the Norristown Small Business Assistance Center at 268 East Main Street. This was “documented as a planned project” in August 2022 when the funds were appropriated.
Jones recalled an earlier conversation he had with county officials during a work session in July when the potential amputation was confirmed. Mr Jones said organizers had expressed concern about how their proposals “deviated from the way they were originally written”.
“My response, while it may be true, is that this is a fact on the ground and I hope that you will all be aware of what Norristown small business actually needs to achieve in order to be viable. If you’re really interested in helping out, this is the plan,” not just advice,” Jones said. “So that’s where we’ve been arguing.”
Implementation of the project officially began in the fourth quarter of 2022, but the funds had not yet been distributed, Bonner said. Instead, county and city officials meet regularly to “define the scope of the project,” he claimed.
small business marketing
Representatives of fitness centers, theater companies and libraries made proposals for small business grants at the city council earlier this spring. Council President Thomas Lepera shared his thoughts on the issue in July.
“Libraries are what the county does with ARPA funds, and I don’t see any need to fund county projects with ARPA funds,” he said at a work session on July 18. “They certainly didn’t do us any favors with the ARPA fund, small business subsidies, arguing about community centers, etc. So the library is a no for me.”
As the county’s recovery officer, Bonner is tasked with ensuring that funds are allocated in accordance with federal regulations. This example starts with an open dialogue.
“Does that mean allocating more money to, say, improving small business subsidies? Does it mean improving the façade? It’s increasing the capacity of the Small Business Assistance Center run by the Norristown Borough Government. Is that what you mean?” Bonner said. “These are all viable uses of this fund, this particular allocation.”
Bonner stressed the importance of finding common ground to use the funds in the ways they see fit.
“If we expand the SME Support Center, whether it’s through capital improvements, programmatic costs, or perhaps a combination of both, that’s our intention,” he said. “The only thing we have a problem with is if it goes beyond what we said we’re going to do and/or if it doesn’t comply with federal regulations.”
look at the clock
There is still time before the December 31, 2024 obligatory deadline, but Norristown’s elected officials are eager to get their hands on the money.
“As we all know, funds have to be allocated and spent by a certain date. When a government implements a project, there are so many steps involved. ,” Lepera told the Media News Group. “At least we’re sure we’re getting the money, or we’re actually getting the money, so we can spend it before it expires. It’s not something we can put up with for 10 years. I have a very short schedule.”
But Bonner argued that the practice is not at all uncommon.
“We are now in the process of communicating and finalizing what the plans are,” Bonnier said, adding, “Norristown is certainly not alone. There are a lot of things that aren’t really funded for a variety of good reasons.”
“I’m not saying they didn’t get it, it’s a problem,” Bonner said. “Than saying I want to see what the program is before I proceed.”
Questions over the $2 million small business grant were raised again at a meeting on Aug. 2 when City Councilman Dustin Queenan asked about a possible timeline.
Along with Mr. Jones, Mr. Lepera and Vice President Heather Lewis discussed the matter over the phone with Montgomery County Commissioner Ken Lawrence Jr. Mr Jones said Lawrence had given “instructions to the team” to “make significant progress by the August meeting”.
“Since I submitted and responded to the last group of questions, I haven’t heard anything back. I think we’ve answered those questions…so as soon as we get them, we’ll be broadcasting from the hills,” Jones said.
solution may be near
Bonner said on Thursday that it appeared to be in the final stages and expected to be resolved by mid-September.
This comes after Norristown City Council members finalized the large amount of funds available from the municipality’s share of the American Rescue Program Act funds. A total of $20.2 million was paid in two installments.
The funds have designated objectives such as economic development, infrastructure, restructuring of local government finances, and health and social service-related initiatives.
Nearly $9.5 million was allocated for the series of projects. Figures from the American Rescue Plan Act: Investing in Norristown Oct. 2022 Community Feedback Report show that more than $7.5 million has been earmarked for the project, with approximately $2 million allocated for administrative costs.
Big-ticket items include $1.9 million for the operation of the Stormwater Service, $1.2 million for 2022 General Budget relief, and $1.15 million for Polley Park Skatepark.
This latest effort includes $4 million for a new recreation center and Roosevelt Field, $2 million in budget support and capital improvement program savings, $700,000 for plague remediation, $500,000 for Polley Park, and the Municipality’s Story Pass initiative. has been budgeted for $130,000.
In addition, city officials said $250,000 was set aside for “project emergencies and additional improvements to the park.” At the August 2 board meeting, the fund allocation was approved by a 5-0 vote. Lewis and City Councilman Tiffany Hendry were absent.