With an allocation of nearly $102 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, Chester County Government is finalizing its structure for prioritizing, requesting and reviewing proposals that would most effectively spend-down the funding, aimed at rebuilding communities affected by the pandemic.
A key part of the process – and one that ensures full transparency in spending the money – is the inclusion of members of the public as part of the County’s ARPA evaluation teams.
“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,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Marian Moskowitz.
“We are looking for citizen volunteers from across Chester County to help us review proposed projects to determine their eligibility and their priority for funding.”
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 underlying theme in all of these areas will be addressing services to disproportionately impacted communities.
Seven evaluation teams will be established by Chester County to address each priority area for ARPA funding. Each team will include representatives from Chester County Government’s finance department, solicitor’s office and strategic planning team, who will facilitate the priority groups. Three county employee volunteers and four volunteers from the community will complete each team.
Chester County Commissioner Josh Maxwell said, “The mix of County senior administrative staff, other employees from across all departments, and county residents will help us to use these significant funds in a bold, innovative and equitable way.
“While we appreciate that some people may have professional expertise and knowledge that relates to some of the ARPA priority areas, subject matter experts are not necessarily part of the team selection process. What we are looking for is a cross section of people covering all ages, genders, socio-economic and geographical areas of the county. This approach helps ensure the 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.”
Specifically, the County is seeking 28 volunteers – four to serve on each of the seven evaluation teams – initially over a period of six months. The average commitment will be five to 10 hours per month.
The County has been working with Susquehanna Accounting and Consulting Services, Inc. to negotiate and apply for the federal funding, ensure ARPA compliance and maximize efficiencies and eligible expenditures.
“Susquehanna will also train all of our evaluation team members on the criteria required for use of ARPA funds. Those teams will then score proposals, ask additional questions of proposers, and ultimately develop recommendations on what projects should be funded,” noted Commissioner Michelle Kichline.
“In my time as a Commissioner, I cannot think of a more exciting way for County residents to have a direct impact on supporting and strengthening their community.”
Anyone age 18 or over who lives or works in Chester County is invited to register their interest in being part of Chester County’s ARPA Evaluation Teams at www.chesco.org/arpa. Application forms should be submitted by Friday, August 20th.