LEBANON COUNTY, Pa. — At long last, Lebanon County is getting its CARES Act cash.
Governor Tom Wolf said Friday the state reached an agreement that will provide Lebanon County businesses and organizations with $12.8 million in funding.
As part of the agreement with the Wolf Administration, Lebanon County will launch a $2.8 million campaign to emphasize the importance of wearing face masks to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and protect lives, the governor said.
"There is quite a large chunk of money going to the mask up campaign, but frankly, if that's what we have to do to get the rest of the money, that's what we have to do," said Karen Groh, CEO and President of the Lebanon Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The agreement ends the delay in the release of CARES Act funding to Lebanon County. The state's other 66 counties received their funds in mid-July, but the governor withheld Lebanon County's money.
He said at the time the decision was a consequence of Lebanon County's choice to move into the Yellow Phase of the state's COVID-19 reopening plan ahead of state approval back in May.
"There are consequences," he said at a press conference on July 16. "These are the consequences and I think I’m being consistent here."
Lebanon County later filed a petition on Commonwealth Court, asking it to rule that Wolf must release the $12.8 million in CARES Act money.
Now, it appears the issue has been resolved.
“Throughout the process, I have remained committed to helping the people of Lebanon County and we have found a solution to directly inject nearly $13 million into the community," Wolf said Friday in a press release. "My hope is the money will help businesses to succeed and pay workers and allow important local organizations to provide vital services that people need.”
The County will allot the funds as follows:
- $1,000,000 Municipal Government/School District for expenses/reimbursement for COVID-related costs
- $3,000,000 Small Business Grants and PPE distribution (under 100 employees)
- $2,250,000 Grants and PPE to tourism-related business and County Fair
- $2,000,000 Grants and PPE to non-profit 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations
- $1,500,000 Economic Development Corp efforts/forward Lebanon Promotions/Large Biz
- $250,000 Behavioral Health/Substance Use/ Suicide Prevention Treatment Cost
- $2,800,000 Campaign to promote universal mask-wearing
- $12,800,000 TOTAL
“I’m pleased that Lebanon County will launch a campaign to encourage the use of face masks,” said Wolf. “Mask-wearing is important to reduce the spread of COVID-19 to protect people, schools and businesses. It’s a simple and easy way for all of us to fight this virus and control case counts in Lebanon County and across the state.”
Meantime, Lebanon County Commissioner Jo Ellen Litz supports the mask campaign. She hopes the county will consider a patriotic theme to unite the residents that many say bleed red, white, and blue.
"I think there will be some resistance," said Litz. "To me, it's pretty clear: Our biggest employer is the military, what we have to do is make this fiercely patriotic. Everyone will feel a sense of pride and patriotism."
County residents should also feel a sense of victory, according to Litz. The lawsuit filed against the Wolf Administration for withholding the funds in the first place has been dropped -- which means the county won't use taxpayer dollars in court.
"We settled outside of court, meaning it's a win, win for both of us," said Litz.
Litz feels for the small business community which has waited for this funding.
'This is hard. This is real hard. They're scared about losing their homes, cars. How are they going to afford college for their kids? How are they going to put food on the table? They've invested their lives into these businesses," said the commissioner.