In a virtual town hall Monday, Bucks County Commissioners discussed a wide range of issues, ranging from the pandemic and school opening to mail-in voting.
Commissioner Gene DiGirolamo, the sole Republican on the three-member board, said the county is calling on state government to allow counties more time to open and scan the more than 100,000 mail-in and absentee ballots expected from November’s election.
“We need help from Harrisburg to give us more time,” said DiGirolamo. The county has received an additional 25,000 mail-in applications, as of the end of August.
Bob Harvie, vice chairman of the board of commissioners, cautioned voters who want to vote by mail not to send in duplicate applications.
“It just slows down the process,” he said. The county’s website – buckscounty.org – has been updated with election information, including FAQs to address many questions. “Please check that before calling the board of elections,” said Harvie.
More information will soon be available on the locations and hours of drop boxes for voters to deposit their ballots, Harvie added.
The vice chairman also announced there will be a second round of grants for businesses that have suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic. This month, approximately $15 million will be available to Bucks County businesses that have up to $2 million in revenue, Harvie said.
The first cycle of small business grants provided about $14 million to approximately 900 businesses that had revenue up to $700,000. All the funding comes from the approximately $109 million CARES Act money Bucks received.
Responding to a question suggesting the county used “fear mongering” about the pandemic, Commissioner Chairwoman Diane Ellis Marseglia defended Bucks County’s response.
“We did the right thing early,” said Marseglia, noting, “There’s a lot of fear it (the virus) could come back in November.”
Commissioner Harvie also said the county has handled the pandemic well. “We took a scientific and measured approach … unlike Florida and other states. There’s literally no one alive today who has had to govern through something like this here or around the world.”
DiGirolamo added, “The health, safety and welfare of every person in Bucks County is our number one priority.”
A number of people asked about schools reopening and whether any tax rebates might be given, as some districts are holding classes virtually. The commissioners explained that the county does not levy school taxes and that is the responsibility of school districts.
Concerns about traffic around those schools holding in-person and hybrid classes were also discussed. Parents said more adults would be driving kids to school to avoid their traveling on buses. The commissioners said police departments plan to assist wherever necessary.
With the moratorium on evictions ending, many are worried what will happen to families losing their homes and meeting legal challenges. District courts and judges will be sensitive to the issue, the commissioners said