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United Way of Lancaster County


County ARPA Round 2: Community grant applications far exceed proposed amount available

In this July 2022 file photo, county commissioners John Trescot, Ray D’Agostino and Josh Parsons speak at an event celebrating the grant of nearly $3.5 million in ARPA funds for clean water projects. The commissioners are now considering a second round of community ARPA grants. (Photo: Tim Stuhldreher)

Lancaster County’s new round of community American Rescue Plan Act funding is shaping up to be even more competitive than the first round was.

(Source: Lancaster County)

This summer, the commissioners opened a second round of ARPA community grants, with applications due by Aug. 31. The county received 75 applications from municipalities, nonprofits and other third-party entities by the deadline, according to data provided by Deputy Chief Clerk Amy Campbell. (For the full list of applications, click here).

In total, applicants are seeking $35.4 million — nearly six times the $6 million the commissioners have floated as a tentative total community ARPA allocation.

During Tuesday morning’s work session, the commissioners discussed how best to proceed. The first steps, they agreed, are to have the county’s ARPA committee determine which applications are eligible for funding, and to confirm how much ARPA money can be made available.

Community ARPA requests to Lancaster County: Dollar amounts by category. (Source: Lancaster County)

The grants are subject to federal and county ARPA guidelines. The federal guidelines are non-negotiable: Any project that falls short is automatically disqualified. In theory, the county could waive the additional guidelines it has set up, but it hasn’t so far, and Commissioner Josh Parsons said Tuesday that he, at least, would be very reluctant to do so.

Once it’s known which projects qualify, the commissioners agreed they would want to hear everyone’s presentations. After that, they could discuss the applications, settle on some priorities, and begin making allocations.

Campbell asked the commissioners if they would like the option of recessing their morning work sessions and holding at least some of the presentations in the afternoon. That shouldn’t be necessary, Parsons said: The morning work sessions should allow enough time.

Community ARPA by the numbers

In its initial community ARPA funding round, Lancaster County received 100 applications seeking about $78.5 million. In the ensuing months, the commissioners approved $22.6 million in grants to 41 nonprofits, municipalities and municipal authorities.

According to the county’s online spreadsheet, it has appropriated $76.9 million, or 72.5%, of its total ARPA funding of $106 million. That leaves $29.1 million available, but county officials have indicated that much of that is earmarked for the county’s own use.

In her presentation Tuesday morning to the commissioners, Campbell gave the number of Round 2 applications as 76, not 75. She said afterward that she had included the Spanish American Civic Association’s ARPA application this summer for equipment to fit out Tec Centro West, for which the commissioners approved $500,000.

SACA’s application was originally submitted during the first ARPA round, then delayed while SACA secured its other funding. In a follow-up email, Campbell said the project “was not really considered part of Round 2 but was more of a holdover.”

If it were considered part of Round 2, and the $500,000 counted against the total, that could reduce the amount available to other applicants by one-twelfth, or 8.3%, assuming the commissioners stick with their proposed $6 million funding cap.

In its request for applications for Round 2, the county said the $6 million cap is approximate and could be exceeded, and that funding will be determined on a case-by-case basis.

In the first round of community ARPA grants, the county posted all of the applications on its website. That will be done this time as well, D’Agostino said.