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State COVID Money

$350 billion from the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan was set aside last March to help state and local governments that missed out on tax payments during the pandemic.

And now we’re starting to get a picture of where that money is going, and where the debate continues.

State College already began putting its $13 million to use after approving a plan last July. The borough council agreed to use about half of it to offset revenue losses, with nearly $5 million going toward their capital improvement plan, with other money being set aside for small business and non-profit recovery and loans.

This month, Johnstown’s city council finalized a proposal to spend the more than $30 million it’s receiving. The biggest chunk will go toward a revitalization of Main Street, with other chunks going toward the city’s ongoing sewer and stormwater projects, refurbishing Sargent’s Stadium at the Point and the Pasquerilla Convention Center, as well as for businesses, nonprofits, and housing assistance.

A final vote on the Johnstown plan is expected in May.

Meanwhile, others are taking their time with how to spend all of their windfall.

Altoona has slowly rolled out how to spend its $39 million allotment, spending it on stormwater projects and budget gaps to restore city positions in the police and fire departments, along with public works, that had been cut during the pandemic. The city is also moving forward with a revolving loan program for businesses and non-profits.

In Harrisburg, about 2/3 of the state’s $7.3 billion dollars has been spent or allocated on the pandemic response, education, and the general fund.

Republicans have sought to save much of the remaining money including for the state’s rainy-day fund, ahead of some budget forecasts showing a shift from surpluses to deficits down the road. But Gov. Tom Wolf is calling on the legislature to spend $1.7 billion on a list of things, including conservation, workforce programs, and supporting small businesses.

There’s still time to spend the cash. The funds don’t have to be committed until the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.

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