Most Pennsylvanians would agree that $100 million is a lot of money.

State Rep. Clint Owlett grilled state officials with the Department of Community and Economic Development last week about nearly $100 million in unspent funds in that agency’s coffers.

The unspent money is part of the DCED’s budget that gets doled out to businesses that apply for various grants.

“Why is your department holding on to these prior years’ money?” asked Owlett (R-Tioga/Bradford). “An overarching concern is we appropriated money every year. You’re sitting on almost $100 million in lapsed funds, some of it going back fifteen, maybe 20 years.”

Acting DCED Secretary Rick Siger said, “The vast majority of the $100 million is obligated grants. Because of the nature of business. Business does not work on the government fiscal year.”

Owlett shot back, “I’m from business so I understand.”

Siger added, “They’re going to spend the money when they spend it. Most of these projects are on a reimbursement basis. They file the reimbursement. We pay it out, so we have to have those dollars available to pay out.

“The second thing is, I do want to look at some of these older grants. I was not aware of one from 2005 and understand what our process is to reprogram that money.”

Owlett said the lawmakers often argue about spending $500,000 and the DCED has  “lapsed year funds and we have businesses that could really use it. If it’s claw back money, great. Let’s repurpose it for use and figure out a way to do that.”

Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Bucks) said, “It’s concerning that at the same time that DCED is sitting on nearly $100 million in unspent funds from prior budgets, the agency is also requesting new spending. DCED owes it to the taxpayers to use these funds as intended or return them to the General fund.

“Instead of depleting our budget reserves and the Rainy-Day Fund in the Administration’s budget, we need to focus on the positive, common-sense changes that can be made to help address Pennsylvania’s structural deficit,” she said. The structural deficit is more than $2 billion.

Gov. Josh Shapiro laid out a $44.4 billion budget for 2023-24. The DCED is requesting $191,414,000.

The DCED helps new businesses start and existing businesses grow. It’s also involved in workforce development and training, and services to local governments. It’s also involved in community planning, weatherization and other programs.

Linda Stein is News Editor at Delaware Valley Journal.

This article was republished with permission from the Delaware Valley Journal.

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