Snyder County will spend its $3.64 million CARES Act funding expanding broadband and renovating the former bank building in Middleburg.
County board chairman Joe Kantz said about $2 million of the federal funds will be spent renovating the former M&T Bank adjacent to the courthouse. The county purchased the building to allow row offices to spread out and provide them more space, which is now limited.
"It's absolutely COVID-19 related," he said of the renovations.
Not only will the additional space allow for social distancing, the plans include upgraded state-of-the-art technology which will allow the county to live-stream meetings to the public, Kantz said.
The funding also means the county will not have to borrow the money and repay it with tax dollars, he said.
CARES funding can be used to cover costs "that are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19); were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of the date of enactment of this section for the State or government; and were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020," according to the Treasury Department.
Commissioner Adam Ewig said the county will soon be debt-free after making a final payment on a prior bond.
"Not many counties can say that," he said. "Hats off to the previous board for that."
Another large chunk of the CARES Act funding will be spent on improving internet access, a campaign priority for both Ewig and Commissioner Chuck Steininger.
"People have to be able to work and do schoolwork from home," said Kantz. "That's our No. 1 priority."
It will be money well spent, said Midd-West School Board President Victor Abate.
"Some students, especially in the western part of the county, just don't have internet access," he said. "It's very necessary."
The problem was particularly acute during the COVID-19 pandemic as students struggled with online education when the health crisis closed schools.
The district had to spend money paying for hot spots so students could access assignments online, he said.
Kantz said the county must spend the funding before the end of this year.