MAYVILLE – Chautauqua County’s top executive is laying out his plan to start spending the over $24 million allocated to the county under the American Rescue Act.
County Executive PJ Wendel identified five key areas for how the $24.6 million will be spent during an interview with WNY News Now on Monday afternoon.
He says those five areas are public health, public safety, economic and workforce development, clean water, and internal department investment.
Wendel explains that the challenge will be using those funds to benefit 27 towns and 13 villages across the county. The two cities of Jamestown and Dunkirk each received separate endowments from the federal government.
“I’ve said this from the very beginning, the responsibility to spend this money is far greater than anything we’ve dealt with in a long time,” said Wendel.
Washington will provide guidance as to how this money can be spent, but those guidelines haven’t been competently finalized.
The purpose of the funds will be to replace lost revenue from the pandemic. Wendel says that while it is tempting to directly add the funds to the County’s budget, and provide a temporary tax break, this is not what it was designed for.
“In a sense, there is an indirect tax savings, but this will take more time as compared to, you know, using half of 24.6 million in a one-time boost to our tax base or to what we raised to help levy,” said Wendel.
Some of the focuses, according to Wendel, will be on water and sewer systems as well as increasing broadband internet access. The County will continue to identify other areas of need and will be consulting the federal guidelines in that process.
“This money will be an investment in our future, you know, for the future of Chautauqua County. Whether it’s our DPF, our public safety, our workforce and economic development, it’s a solid investment,” said Wendel.
Wendel added that the funds must be appropriated by 2024 and completely distributed by 2026.
The fund, which is part of the American Rescue Act, was signed by President Biden back on March 11.