$12.8M Lebanon County lost & regained is just a slice of CARES Act windfall

3 min read1,515 views and 22 shares Posted August 20, 2020

A great deal of focus has been spent on the $12.8 million in CARES Act funding that Lebanon County lost — and then regained — after County Commissioners voted to reject Gov. Tom Wolf’s orders regarding health and safety measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

Although those funds are now being released to the county after a lawsuit and weeks of negotiations between Lebanon and Harrisburg, there is a lot more money from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act package that’s providing pandemic aid to Lebanon County.

Read more: Gov. Wolf, county commissioners announce settlement of CARES Act suit

According to Lyndsay Kensinger, the governor’s press secretary, the county has been allocated more than $45 million in CARES Act funds in addition to the $12.8 million in question.

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As of early August, Kensinger said, the county had received the following funds:

  • Aging Block Grants: $18,500
  • Arts Grants: $1,930 (to Gretna Productions)
  • Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund: $2,846,174
    • $387,160 to Eastern Lebanon County School District
    • $253,176 to Lebanon School District
    • $253,176 to Palmyra Area School District
  • Homeless Assistance & Child Welfare: $86,929
  • State Food Purchase Program: $143,803 (to Lebanon County Christian Ministries)
  • Food & Nutrition Emergency Relief: $914,866
    • $49,184 to Annville-Cleona School District
    • $1,793 to Bright Beginnings Early Learning
    • $209,013 to Cornwall-Lebanon School District
    • $197,465 to Eastern Lebanon County School District
    • $362 to Gravel Hill UMC
    • $274,406 to Lebanon School District
    • $2,728 to Lebanon Valley Family YMCA
    • $80,775 to Northern Lebanon School District
    • $99,136 to Palmyra Area School District
  • Help America Vote Act Emergency Funds: $60,500
  • Higher Education Emergency Relief: $1,800,293
    • $20,659 to Evangelical Theological Seminary
    • $1,442,705 to Lebanon Valley College
    • $336,929 to Lebanon Valley Area Vocational Tech
  • Office of Developmental Programs: $38,331,375
  • Office of Child Development and Early Learning: $1,174,200
  • Office of Long-Term Living: $4,271,722

Republican County Commissioners Robert J. Phillips and William E. Ames did not respond to a request for comment on additional CARES Act funding disbursements.

Democratic County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz, who had opposed the resolution which led to the $12.8M standoff, said the funding received so far has “helped our residents, especially at the Redevelopment Authority who has been issuing grants for people struggling to pay their rent or mortgage. This transcends to helping landlords, too.”

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Also through the allocations, Litz noted, the county’s Department of Emergency Services has received personal protective equipment for first responders.

“And, yes, I anticipate the federal government will eventually release more funding to local governments,” she said. Litz said she isn’t sure if future funding will be direct or through the state.

Several local school superintendents, in previous interviews, have said they’ve used CARES Act grants to pay for new technology in their schools, such as distance learning tech in the classrooms to facilitate at-home instruction and electronic tablets and laptop computers for students, as well as cleaning supplies and staffing.

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Ali Fogarty, communications director for the state Department of Human Services, further broke out some of the dollars awarded to Lebanon County agencies.

CARES Act funding, Fogarty said, included $90 million to providers of residential, respite and shift nursing services in Pennsylvania. In Lebanon County, that included $15,359,472 for residential services providers, $31,893 for shift nursing providers, and $97,797 for respite care providers.

The county also received $12,830,972 for Community Participation Support providers, covering the cost of retainer payments from March through June, and a statewide pot of money for providers of in-home and community, supported and small group employment, companion and transportation trip services included more than $6.2 million for in-home and community services in Lebanon County, more than $2 million for companion services in Lebanon County, just over $1.1 million for small group employment services and $510,814 for transportation trip services.

Local state representatives are still nettled about the $12.8 million that was temporarily withheld, but seemed cautiously pleased by the funds the county has gotten so far.

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Rep. Frank Ryan (R-101) said he is “still extraordinarily disappointed in the withholding of the funds,” but said it “is helpful that these funds have been received.”

The dollars itemized above “reflect both appropriated and automatic flow through of federal dollars,” Ryan said. “What I question though is the massive bureaucracy at the federal and state levels that get in the way of these fund allocations.

“Whether you are a Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, it should make no difference because the funding flow should be based upon need and the legislation that was put into effect to authorize it,” he said in an email. “The administrative overhead, which amounts to almost 25% of every dollar spent, could be better used in the areas where the money is needed.”

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Rep. Russ Diamond (R-102) said the amount granted to Lebanon County, if added to the $12.8 million, “would more closely match our share of the state’s population, based on the almost $5 billion total CARES Act funding PA received.”

“Of course,” he added, “any assistance is helpful, but it can’t be perpetual and it won’t be enough to save everyone. At some point, the world needs to start turning again.”


Read all of LebTown’s COVID-19 coverage here.

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Full Disclosure: The campaigns of Bill Ames, Bob Phillips, and Jo Ellen Litz were advertisers on LebTown during previous election cycles. Ames Home Services and the campaign of Frank Ryan are current advertisers on LebTown. LebTown does not make editorial decisions based on advertising relationships and advertisers do not receive special editorial treatment. Learn more about advertising with LebTown here.

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