Dozens of Valley communities have received a share of federal rescue dollars in the first three rounds of disbursements, funds that come with an increased degree of importance considering the target.

Disbursements made in the third round of payments include funding to 619 municipalities statewide totaling $109.2 million. Combined with the 1,133 payments made over the previous two weeks, which totaled $311.8 million, 1,752 Pennsylvania municipalities have received more than $421 million. In the Valley, 59 municipalities have received funding totaling more than $9.7 million over the last three weeks.

“Many communities are still hurting from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and this money is meant to help them through the ongoing economic recovery,” State Treasurer Stacy Garrity said. “I encourage local officials to apply for these available funds as soon as possible if they have not already done so.”

The program is borne out of federal rescue funding; which gave states the responsibility to disburse these federal funds to municipalities with fewer than 50,000 residents. To receive payments, eligible Pennsylvania municipalities must request funds through the Department of Community and Economic Development. Larger municipalities must apply to receive payments directly from the federal government.

In Pennsylvania, more than 2,500 cities, boroughs and townships qualify for payments.

The funding is to be tabbed to address the still real financial wounds and economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds are to be used to replace lost public sector revenue, support public health, assist essential workers, and invest in infrastructure improvements such as water, sewer or broadband services.

Local officials are always the watchdogs of taxpayer dollars, their most important task. This funding isn’t something to play fast and loose with. The money must get into the hands of those who need it the most as quickly as possible. It must also be accounted for, from start to finish, down to the last penny.

State Auditor General Tim DeFoor said his office will be watching.

“Pennsylvania did not win the lottery — these relief funds are our tax dollars,” DeFoor said. “If the money is misused, it will be nearly impossible to get it back. Even if we could get it back, it would likely only be pennies on the dollar.”

This money can have a wide-reaching impact if spent efficiently and wisely.

We will be watching.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

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