The Sussex County Commissioners agreed to apply for about $27.3 million dollars from the American Rescue Plan to address economic hardships caused by the pandemic.
The money can be used to fill revenue shortfalls in hard-hit communities. It can alleviate harm to workers, small businesses, industry, and the public sector, and replace lost public sector revenue. It can be used to provide premium pay to essential workers and support those who have borne the greatest health risks during the pandemic.
The funds can also be used to invest in water, sewer, and broadband. It can be used to improve access to clean water, support vital wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, and expand access to broadband internet service.
The $130.2 billion American Rescue Plan Act was passed by both houses of Congress and signed by President Joe Biden on March 11. Sussex County has been allocated $27.3 million.
The money is to be delivered in two allotments. The first covers about 50 percent, with the balance expected 12 months later.
The funds may be used to cover costs between March 3, 2021, and Dec. 31, 2024. Any money not committed by Dec. 31, 2024, and not spent by Dec. 31, 2026, must be returned.
Gregory Poff of Byram asked the commissioners on May 26 to consider allocating an “appropriate amount of money” toward small locally owned businesses.
“I know we have a lot of work to do once we have it solidified that those are the indeed the funds that are coming,” commissioners director Dawn Fantasia said.
Deputy commissioners director Anthony Fasano said the board has not yet had any in-depth conversations, but that small businesses and Sussex County residents who have struggled throughout the pandemic need to be a primary focus.
Fantasia pointed to Monmouth County, which was able to issue small grants to businesses during the height of the pandemic.
“These are things that the smaller counties were not able to consider,” she said. “So, the money that was available to us was not even proportionate. So, for me, that is my number one priority, when we do sit together and discuss with our professionals where money is needed to cover some of the coronavirus impact expenses.”