Penn Hills will be getting around $17 million to $18 million from the latest round of federal covid relief within the next few months, U.S. Rep. Conor Lamb said during a recent meeting with officials.
Lamb, D-Mt. Lebanon, made several stops March 26 in order to speak with leaders in municipalities, business owners and others about the $1.9 trillion covid relief package, known as the American Rescue Plan, most recently signed into law.
The bill included $350 billion set aside for state and local governments to use as “fiscal recovery funds.”
Although final figures are not yet determined, Lamb expects Penn Hills’ allocation to be somewhere between $17 million and $18 million.
Local officials were ecstatic.
“Pun intended: this is the best covid shot ever,” said Penn Hills Mayor Pauline Calabrese during the meeting with the congressman. She, along with other municipal officials, thanked Lamb for entrusting the municipality with such a large financial boost.
Calabrese and Lamb were joined by the municipality’s police chief, Howard Burton, planning director Chris Blackwell, Penn Hills Fireman’s Association president Dave Zacchia and finance director Sheree Strayer to talk about ways the covid money could be used.
A set-in-stone plan for how the money will be used has not been made public yet, but there were many ideas presented.
Burton said the money could be used to fund a roof that would protect police cruisers from the elements. The roof was part of original plans for the new municipal building that were scrapped for budgetary reasons, Burton said.
“People don’t understand the cost of running a police department,” he said, adding he hopes the money could help in the purchase of new dashcams in police cars, which are seven years old. He also mentioned purchasing new body cameras.
For fire departments, Zacchia said the money would be useful in ramping up recruitment efforts, training and purchasing equipment and vehicles.
Blackwell hopes the money could help the municipality cover matching funds for other grants pending or in the works.
“I think this kind of injection and these funds will make our capital program … a real capital program,” he said, noting the municipality’s five-year capital plan has a $35 million budget, but only $26 million available.
Lamb said the covid relief money for Penn Hills – and other cities and counties – would be available in the next two to three months. The congressman said the last thing he wants is for anyone else to lose their job.
“We want Penn Hills to keep everybody employed, doing the important work they do every day and not make the unemployment situation even worse,” Lamb said.
Penn Hills used $3 million of carryover funds to balance the 2021 spending plan, a practice manager Scott Andrejchak has frowned upon in the past. The municipality also had to curtail services from the library and senior centers, along with a furlough of 57 full- and part-time workers. Only some of those employees were recalled, while others retired or found other positions within the municipality.
This year’s $17 million or $18 million allocation would add to last year’s $325,000 boost from the first coronavirus relief bill.
Lamb also made stops at a supermarket in Sewickley, Pittsburgh International Airport, a vaccination site in Beaver County and the county’s courthouse to tout the recent passing of the covid relief bill.
Lamb verified that President Joe Biden will make a stop in Pittsburgh on March 31 but did not say whether he will attend the event. Over the last couple of weeks, President Biden has been traveling with Vice President Kamala Harris to promote the American Rescue Plan. The president’s first stop was on the eastern side of Pennsylvania on March 16.
Dillon Carr is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Dillon at 412-871-2325, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .