In last week’s “Wallkill Valley Times”, Orange County Transit alleged that Valley Central School District is in reipt of a $563,686.00 distribution from NYS under Congress’ passage of the CARES Act and asks, “Where’s the money going?”
Unfortunately Orange County Transit misunderstands how the CARES Act works. Funds under this statue are needed for educational purposes to address State aid shortfalls so that schools may maintain continuity of educational programs and services. This, of course, is critical to meeting the academic and social/emotional well-being of children during this unprecedented crisis.
Contrary to Orange County Transit’s suggestion, the District does not have a surplus of funds that it can use to act as stimulus for vendors that did not provide services to the District during school closures. In this regard, the truth is that Valley Central has not received any money from the CARES Act. To the contrary, the District’s State Aid allocation for the current year was reduced by a Pandemic Adjustment of -$560,835. In theory, this money may be replaced by the Federal Cares Restoration, (+$560,835). But this money is not guaranteed.
The United States Department of Education has encouraged that any restoration funds be used for investments in technology, infrastructure and professional development. This year, the District has spent money on upgrading internet bandwidth, purchasing of mobile hotspots and wireless service plans for those in need. We have purchased Chromebooks and software for students and teachers. We have also provided professional development for teachers regarding remote learning.
As required per Governor Cuomo’s executive order, Valley Central has provided for childcare of essential workers, distributed thousands of meals, purchased necessary personal protective equipment, sanitizing supplies, and required signage. Funds may also be used to continue to employ existing staff, and Valley Central is proud to have been able to maintain all of its employees to date while other districts have made layoffs.
While the District sympathizes with businesses that are struggling because of the pandemic, we are not in a legal or practical position to subsidize such businesses with scarce taxpayer monies that are needed to educate children. The remedy for such business is the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which provides small businesses with the resources they need to maintain their payroll, hire back employees who may have been laid off, and cover applicable overhead.
It is our understanding that Orange County Transit was granted $1,762,030.00 from the government under the PPP. They are NOT entitled to any more from our taxpayers.