Burns urges care, foresight in dispersing $57.4 million in COVID relief

Calls for ‘strategic investments’ by Johnstown, Cambria County

EBENSBURG, April 7 – With Johnstown and Cambria County slated to receive the lion’s share of local stimulus funding under the American Rescue Plan of 2021, state Rep. Frank Burns wants to see wise investments in water, sewerage and broadband projects with the one-time infusion of $57.4 million.

Burns, D-Cambria, said he prefers infrastructure developments with long-lasting potential over creating or funding programs that satisfy someone’s wish list but are short-lived and lack dramatic impact.

“Any time the federal government is handing out $32.19 million to Johnstown and $25.25 million to Cambria County, a lot of hands are going to go up shouting, ‘Spend it on us!’” Burns said. “We should make good strategic investments, like those in infrastructure, that pay the biggest dividends down the road. We can’t afford to squander this money.”

Burns also said it’s critically important for those handing out the money to be aware of – and follow to a “T” – all eligibility rules and guidelines set down by the federal government.

“Now is not the time to act in haste in an effort to get the money out the door as fast as possible, or to creatively direct money into dubious pet projects,” Burns said. “I urge elected officials to resist those temptations, because slipups in following the rules and lapses in judgement can backfire into severe, profound consequences.”

In addition to water, sewerage and broadband infrastructure, permitted uses for the federal money include:

  • Responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative economic effects – a broad category that includes assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, as well as aid to the tourism, travel, and hospitality industries.
  • Providing premium pay of up to $13 per hour extra to essential local government workers, and grants to eligible employers whose eligible employees perform essential work.
  • To recoup revenue loss for providing government services due to COVID-19, relative to revenues collected in the most recent full fiscal year prior to the emergency.

Prohibited uses include directly or indirectly offsetting a tax cut, or for pension funds.