How Should Newtown Spend COVID-19 Relief Money?
Preliminary information related to the recently passed Federal Relief Package was released on Friday, March 12, 2021. It was announced that the 936 million dollars would be shared among local governments in Pennsylvania with populations of less than 50,000. Newtown Township’s allocation of those funds is anticipated to be over $2 million.
The Township should have ½ of the Township’s funds by June 9, 2021. The State will have it by May 10, 2021 and it has 30 days to distribute to municipalities. The second half will come before March 11, 2022.
NOTE: On June 29, 2021, the Township received the first deposit totaling $1,024,920.93.
What CAN The Money Be Used For?
The FINAL RULE greatly expanded what this money can be used for as explained by PSATS in the following video.
Find out what ARP funds can cover (and what they cannot) under the Lost Revenue category. The final rule now offers a “standard” allowance option of up to $10 million of ARP funds as revenue lost due to the public health emergency.
While many government services are included in this allowance, there are still restrictions on how to spend ARP funding. For example, the funding may not be used to deposit into pension funds, or to offset revenue resulting from a tax cut.
What SHOULD The Money Be Used For?
I'm sure there will be a long line of requests for these funds and Newtown Supervisors will have to weigh all the options. Most importantly, in my opinion, are the opinions of township residents. Consequently, I started a survey in April, 2021, to gauge the opinions of residents. The following is a summary of results to date (September 10, 2021) based on 433 responses from Newtown Township residents (out of a total of 477 responses).
The summary of survey results, organized by rating (choices with the highest ratings at top) is shown in above chart. Another way of looking at the data is shown in the chart below.
Infrastructure investment in drinking water and sewers (A) received the highest rank.
*Although investment in roads and bridges (B) is probably not a permitted use, at the time this survey started it was thought that this use MIGHT be permitted in the future. Hence, it was included in the survey and was ranked very high by Newtown respondents.
On the low end, however, was premium pay for essential workers (H). Close behind that was aid to impacted industries (G).
It should be noted that the funds can only be used to cover costs beginning March 3, 2021. Since, much of the COVID-19 related costs and time associated with essential workers was incurred prior to that date, the funds for this use may be minimal unless there is a further pandemic outbreak.
Some Comments from Survey Respondents
As always, I like to collect comments from survey respondents. To date, this survey generated 78 comments, some of which are presented below. NOTE: You can submit comments on the rules governing the use of Coronavirus State and Local Recovery Funds on the Regulations.gov website. Comments may be submitted anonymously.
Comments from respondents who highly supported the use of funds for infrastructure improvements:
- “Put people to work on Storm Water Management infrastructure that is over stressed, get money to businesses and workers and landlords impacted by the virus.”
- “Public gymnasium and pool facilities/Senior Center”
- “After the Newtown Township tax increase put it towards something that actually benefits the community. Bonuses for Fire/Police? The pension demands are what causes the needs for tax increase to begin with.”
- “Infrastructure Investment- emergency communications”
- “Most of it should go towards our infrastructure. The very basics. It all starts with the foundations.”
- “Most organizations, private and public businesses have gotten support through the PPP and the Bucks County Government grants already. This money should be utilized for infrastructure improvements that Newtown would otherwise be using tax dollars for. The EIT will likely be less due to the high rate of unemployment.”
Comments from respondents who had a low level of support for premium pay for essential workers:
- “Pay a bonus to essential taxpayers [my emphasis]. Everyone in government is already living off of our money. Most don't live here and won't spend it here.”
- “Nobody should be getting a bonus for anything unless it saves the township money. The most essential workers are the ones working to pay their taxes. Give it back.”
- “No premium pay for any township employees who are already overpaid for a small town. Give it back to the tax payers! here to keep it in the township.”
- “Who's going to give me a bonus for doing MY job? That's right, nobody. Same should hold here.”
- “Bonus? For what? Doing your job? They were lucky to not have been laid off like the common working people who pay taxes in this township. Spend it to the benefit of the people.”
- “Every resident should benefit, not political friends, outsiders or township employees who are already overpaid. Give it back to the people.”
- “This money should only be spent in any way that will prevent future tax propery (sic) increases. Some payments to organizations I can see, but not direct "bonuses" to any individual. Payments to individuals, particularly towhship (sic) employees who lost not a day's pay due to COVID, will stink of favoritism, corruption and payoffs.”
- “Bonuses for Fire/Police? The pension demands are what causes the needs for tax increase to begin with.”
Many comments emphasize spending the funds to benefit residents:
- “Don't play favorites, give it back to the people who pay taxes.”
- “Every dollar should go to the tax payors in the township. Stop wasting our money on outsiders who are nothing but mercenaries. They have no loyalty or love for this township. It will be spent in their own communities.”
- “Do something to help the taxpayers, like seniors.”
- “After the Newtown Township tax increase put it towards something that actually benefits the community.”
- “Spending of this money should be an economic decision not a political one where winners and losers are chosen by the board. The benefits of the money should go to township residents who pay the bills here.”
Download the complete list of comments. This list and the charts above will be updated regularly as more people take the survey.
DISCLAIMER: This is not a Newtown Township approved survey. It is solely a survey posted by John Mack acting as a private citizen. You may remain anonymous - your personal information is never revealed without your permission.