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How your Pa. municipality is using federal stimulus funding

Plus: Where you die determines the quality of how your death gets investigated.


October 20, 2022
Inside this edition: How to track your municipality's federal stimulus spending, meet the Spotlight PA State College reporters next week, and where you die determines the quality of how your death gets investigated.
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Follow the Money

The American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion federal stimulus bill, was signed into law in March 2021. Over a year later the emergency funding is still trickling down to help offset negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The act, also known as ARPA, included $350 billion to assist state, local, territorial, and tribal governments with public health measures as well as economic recovery. 

Reporting on Pennsylvania’s share of that federal relief in September, the state Department of Community Economic Development said $6.15 billion of the recovery funds has been allocated to counties, metropolitan cities, and local government units.

With an amount of emergency funding this significant, keeping track of how those tax dollars are spent can feel like a tall order. Here are some basics about the relief money and how to dig into the ways it is being spent:

How much recovery funding did my municipality get?

All of Pennsylvania’s 67 county governments and 38 of its metropolitan city governments — including State College, Altoona, and Williamsport — received funds directly from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. 

Local governments that are not metropolitan cities or counties are referred to as non-entitlement units of local government and got their allocations through the commonwealth.

The DCED said Pennsylvania municipalities received their second and final payments in September.

What can municipalities do with the funding?

Eligible uses of the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, which is how the U.S. Treasury labels the money, include efforts that: 

  • “Support public health expenditures” or “address negative economic impacts caused by the public health emergency,” including assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality;
  • Provide “premium pay” to eligible workers performing essential work during the COVID-19 public health emergency;
  • Replace lost revenue in the public sector;
  • And “invest in water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure.”

Depositing this funding into any pension fund or offsetting a reduction in net tax revenue with this funding in states and territories is prohibited.

Municipalities must establish how they will use their allocations by the end of 2024. The funds must then be dispersed by the end of 2026.

How to keep track of recovery fund spending

State, local, and tribal governments are required to submit one or more of three types of reports to the U.S. Treasury, depending on population size and the amount of their allocation. 

While these reports are considered open records, meaning the public can request to see them, the information can vary in quality and comparability. Try these handy tools to assist with tracking:

  • Pandemic Oversight, part of the U.S. government’s Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, publishes an interactive dashboard on the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, where funded projects can be found.
  • The Local Government ARPA Investment Tracker — published by Brookings Metro, the National Association of Counties, and the National League of Cities — compiles reports submitted by local governments to the U.S. Treasury.
  • The National Conference of State Legislatures maintains an interactive dashboard that exclusively covers state government recovery fund allocations.

Because municipalities have at least another two years before they finalize all the decisions on how to spend the recovery money, the public still has time to provide input and participate in those conversations. Finding out how much your municipality has received with the tools above and attending a public meeting where spending plans are discussed are great places to start.

Min Xian, local accountability reporter

🗳️ Election Center
Read our complete coverage, plus key dates, campaign finance data, sample ballots & more at our Election Center 2022 website.

Spotlight on the Issues: Where Mastriano and Shapiro stand on:

Rural Health Care, Agriculture, & Broadband
» Abortion, Medicaid, & Opioids
» College Funding & Student Debt
» Energy & the Environment
» Crime & Justice
» LGBTQ Rights

More issue analyses will be published in the coming weeks.

A complete listing of Spotlight PA voter guides:

» Your complete guide to voting in the Nov. 8 election
» Everything you need to know about mail ballots
» Your complete guide to the candidates for governor
» How to vet the candidates on your midterm ballot
» No constitutional amendments on the ballot, but big ones loom
» How to serve as a poll worker on Nov. 8
» These Pa. voters haven't missed a Nov. election for 50+ years
» How Spotlight PA will cover Pennsylvania's 2022 election

En Español:

» Una guía básica para investigar a los candidatos
» Cómo trabajar como trabajador electoral el 8 de noviembre
» Todo lo que necesita saber para votar por correo
» Su guía completa de los candidatos a gobernador

Support Spotlight PA's vital election coverage by making a gift now.
📝 More From Spotlight PA
» How well a death in Pennsylvania will be investigated depends largely on where someone dies

» Jail officials across Pa. sound alarm as mental health crisis puts people at risk, survey finds

» Wolf administration insists undated mail ballots will be valid this November as counties proceed with caution
📷 Local Gem
The Spotlight PA State College team visited Emporium, in Cameron County, last week for a community listening session. Local accountability reporter Min Xian captured the gorgeous foliage at Bucktail Overlook, also called the "Top of the World." Want to be featured here? Send your best local pics to talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org.
📰 In Other News
» 'A waiting game.' Harris Township pushes back against State College connector project(Centre Daily Times)

» State College Community Oversight Board asking for feedback on proposed Civilian Complaint Process (WPSU)

» Penn State to host 3 events in opposition to controversial speakers (StateCollege.com)

» Council effectively pauses more student high-rises in downtown State College. What to know. (Centre Daily Times)

» State College police confirms death of Penn State student due to 'excessive alcohol' consumption (The Daily Collegian)
📅 Events
Want us to list your event? Send it to us.

» Oct. 20: The Center for the Performing Arts at Penn State presents the world premiere of A Marvelous Order, an opera that chronicles the 1960s battle between powerful master builder Robert Moses and determined activist Jane Jacobs over the fate of New York City’s Greenwich Village.

» Oct. 22: Pumpkins are launched "hundreds of feet through the air" into the lake at Bald Eagle State Park for the annual Punkin' Chunkin' Fall Festival.

» Oct. 22: Take a guided walking tour and learn about the history of Hollidaysburg.

» Oct. 22: Bradford Area Public Library hosts the "Fall for Your Library" vendor fair.

» Oct. 23: Rhoneymeade Arboretum and Sculpture Garden hosts a Pig Roast Fundraiser.
🧩 The Puzzler
An anagram is a word, phrase, or name formed by rearranging the letters of another. For example, "spotlight" also forms "stoplight."

Decode the anagram and send your answer to talkofthetown@spotlightpa.org. We'll shout out winners here, and one each week will get some Spotlight PA State College swag.

Good luck!

Last week's answer: Spices

Congrats to Martha D., who will receive Spotlight PA State College swag. Others who answered correctly: Gordon F., Linda A., Warren D., Donna D., Jessica C., and Jay G.
Do you have events, community shoutouts, questions about our region, or tips on stories that we should pursue? Email our team.
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