County, community work together on use of American Recovery Act funds

Chester County Commissioners Marian Moskowitz (center), Josh Maxwell (center left) and Michelle Kichline (center right) welcome the county’s ARPA advisory committee members to the inaugural meeting.

A committee of volunteers has begun work to create a system that prioritizes, requests, and reviews proposals for Chester County’s share of American Recovery Plan Act (ARPA) funds. The committee will recommend how to spend $102 million to aid communities rebuilding from the pandemic.

The 36-member committee is evenly split between Chester County government employees and non-governmental county residents. More than 400 people who don’t work for county government applied to serve on the group.

Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz greeted committee members, at the inaugural meeting, held at the County’s Government Services Center in West Chester, telling them their service is important and unusual.

“The ARPA funds provide us with a unique opportunity to make strategic investments to ensure all of our industries and communities impacted by COVID-19 can be restored, and even strengthened,” Moskowitz said. “We have to capture this moment as a new beginning for the way government interacts with its community. I can’t wait to see all the good work we can do in this county with your help.”

Corey Troutman and Mike Samson from Susquehanna Accounting and Consulting Services, Inc., opened the session by reviewing the types of expenditures allowed under ARPA. They will supervise the committee’s work.

“As you can imagine, federal money comes with a lot of rules and regulations around it, so Corey and Mike are going to keep us within the allowable guidelines as you help us spend $102 million,” County Administrator Bobby Kagel told the gathering.

Commissioner Josh Maxwell pointed out that only a few counties around the country are doing anything like this.

“One of the things that I think we are all proud of here in Chester County is that we have a lot of very smart, very capable employees and a lot of very smart, very capable residents that can advise this government on how to spend this money efficiently and effectively, thinking medium and long-term about what’s going to make Chester County better,” Maxwell said. “We think this is a wonderful opportunity to make sure we’re getting the best ideas possible for spending money in the best interests of our residents.”

Use of the ARPA funds will include support for Chester County’s public health response (including behavioral health); areas of negative economic impact; premium pay for essential workers; and water, sewer, and broadband infrastructure. The County will target funds with the goal of improving services to disproportionately impacted communities.

“This truly is a once in a lifetime opportunity for this county,” added Chester County Commissioner Michelle Kichline. “The fact that all of you have come here tonight and taken the time and shown the interest illustrates your commitment to our citizens. This is a lot of money, and we can make a real difference with it. I am excited to hear what you are going to share with us. You have an awesome responsibility.”

The committee has formed six evaluation teams to address each priority area for ARPA funding. Each team includes representatives from Chester County Government’s Finance Department, three county employee volunteers and four volunteers from the community.

The committee represents a cross section of people covering all ages, genders, socio-economic and geographical areas of the county. This approach helps ensure that difficult questions are asked of proposals, leading to increased results and outcomes. The evaluation teams will identify where and when subject matter experts are needed to answer questions or help in evaluations.

The committee’s six evaluation teams will continue to meet, discuss and review funding options, and will send their recommendations to the County Commissioners for final consideration.

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