NARYSTOWN – Plans to allocate more than $ 161 million in federal funds to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic advanced on Thursday when the Montgomery County Reconstruction Office received more than 400 project proposals.

“We’re just getting started,” said recovery officer Tom Boner. “Completing applications is actually just giving the best part of this work and the hardest part, which is to decide what we’re going to do with these funds and then actually implement the projects we’re funding,” he said.

Congress passed The American Rescue Plan of 2021 in March last year. Of the $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package, Montgomery County received $ 161.4 million. According to Bonner, the money should be spent by the end of December 2026.

The organizers, who oversee the logistics of the district’s reconstruction office, stressed the importance of public participation.

While planning began in August last year, from February 1 to February 1, more than 30 meetings were held with participants from the Recovery Office, county representatives, area residents, local nonprofits and NAACP departments.

“We did this to make sure all sectors of Montgomery County were aware of and empowered to participate in the process,” Boehner said during a district council meeting on Thursday.

In previous information sessions, Boner spoke in detail several qualification requirements for potential applicants which included responding to a health emergency; responding to the negative economic consequences of a health emergency; replacement of lost public sector revenues; providing bonuses for key employees; and investment in water, sanitation and broadband infrastructure.

The application window was open from March 1 to April 30. During that time, the office received 426 applications asking for $ 1.32 billion, according to Bonner, of whom 302 proposals were submitted last weekend.

“Obviously, $ 1.3 billion is much more than $ 161 million, but the purpose of this process was to identify the ideas and projects that represent the most efficient use of these funds, and thus have this level of distribution, this the level of participation, and this level of what I will call the implementation of directives required by law, is certainly a good problem, ”Boner said.

Boner added that the agency expected to receive from 100 to 175 materials.

“We have achieved a diverse geographical distribution across the country,” Boehner said.

Proposals from the “Qualified Census Territories” in Norwich and Potstown amounted to 67 proposals with a request of $ 146 million and 40 project proposals worth $ 135 million, respectively.

An additional 159 ideas were submitted. Along with more elaborate proposals, Boner clarified that an idea is a concept that “can be something that expresses priority, is an indicator of where the community wants the county to direct these funds.”

In the application process, a “database of evaluated, tested ideas and projects representing the interests of the community” was created, Boner said.

Now that the application deadline has expired, there will be a review and selection process, according to Bonner, who stressed that the schedule has been changed due to the increase in the number of applications.

Boehner outlined the following steps in his presentation to the three district commissioners:

The staff of the Recovery Office will conduct an initial review of all submitted projects, ask questions to applicants, consult for more information with experts on the subject and review projects to prepare them for points. The review process is expected to be completed by May 27.

Upon completion of the initial review of the recovery office, an independent expert group of 30 members will evaluate each submission according to the scores heading. It is expected that all projects will be evaluated by June 10. Once enrolled, projects will be considered by the county for inclusion in the recovery plan. The draft recovery plan will be circulated for public discussion.

Boehner clarified that the “recovery plan” is “a list of all projects that will be funded using 161.4 million funds for recovery from the pandemic.” He expected it to run from June 24 to July 8, and a final recovery plan would be developed by July 22.

Elected county officials praised Boner and his team in a status report Thursday.

“Obviously, we can’t fund all these projects,” said Val Arkush, chair of the commissioner. “We just don’t have the money, but we will make every effort to attract other sponsors in our county, our elected officials at both the federal and state levels to receive public grants that they could direct to some of these projects. . ”

“We will do everything in our power to help connect those who had a great project for which we simply do not have enough money, with someone who can at least help with some of this funding,” she continued. “So hopefully when all this is said and done, we will be able to connect and help many wonderful people who have come up with really solid ideas.”

This article has been updated to reflect the change in Bonner’s rank to recovery officer.

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