Commissioners approve tax relief, announces helpline

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 4/28/20

HONESDALE, PA — At their last meeting, the Wayne County Commissioners agreed to try and ease some residents’ financial burdens by extending this year’s tax deadlines. The resolution …

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Commissioners approve tax relief, announces helpline

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HONESDALE, PA — At their last meeting, the Wayne County Commissioners agreed to try and ease some residents’ financial burdens by extending this year’s tax deadlines. The resolution extends the tax discount period from May 31 to August 31 and extends the period before a penalty is incurred until December 31.

“With people not being able to work and not having unemployment [benefits] coming in yet—or stimulus monies—it’s certainly the right thing to do,” said commissioner Joe Adams. “And we did also have a direct discussion with almost every one of our municipalities… letting them know that we were contemplating this, and for the most part, I believe all were in agreement that they were going to do the same.”

Chief clerk Andrew Seder noted that the commissioners’ motion only applied to county taxes, however. Each individual municipality will need to adopt its own resolution prior to May 20 to extend the discount and penalty periods.

Later in the meeting, commissioner Jocelyn Cramer discussed the expansion of the county’s helpline for residents without internet access who needed help navigating the services and resources available to them. Cramer said the line was previously staffed with human services employees to assist with questions about departments like behavioral health, children and youth services or area agency on aging.

“What we’ve done is we’ve expanded that helpline to also include business assistance, small business assistance, non-profit assistance, unemployment information, et cetera,” Cramer said. “There is excellent information online by some of our local organizations, including NEPA Alliance and the Wayne Pike Workforce Alliance…With so many people having limited capability with the internet and cell service—or no internet—that information is not helping anybody who doesn’t have access.”

The helpline, which has been renamed “You Are Not Alone,” is now being staffed with librarians who have undergone training to guide people to the services that they are looking for. The phone number for the helpline is 866/253-5986, and is staffed weekdays 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. After those hours, Cramer said people can call the 211 United Way helpline.

The board also updated its furlough list, which originally applied to 77 employees. Seder said that some have come back to work, and some additional workers have been furloughed. Adams said that the total number of furloughed workers is now 85, and that the decisions are made based on demand for the services each department provides during the pandemic. He added that the commissioners hope to have them return to work in the near future.

In another update to a previous motion, the commissioners approved hazard pay for sheriff’s deputies who have to serve a protection from abuse petition, serve a warrant, or assist a children and youth, or aging, protective service team in responding to a call “out in the community.” The hazard pay is set at an additional $2.50 per hour, only while deputies are performing those particular duties. Seder specified that the hazard pay does not apply when deputies are performing their regular duties.

As has become a new custom at meetings, the commissioners concluded with their personal remarks on the COVID-19 situation in Wayne County. Chairman Brian Smith referenced Gov. Tom Wolf’s three-phase plan for reopening the commonwealth, and announced that recent legislation will allow commissioners to be a part of that conversation on a county-to-county basis.

“I totally respect the fact that this virus is real, we all know people that were affected, we all know people now that have passed away from this virus,” Smith said. “That’s very, very sad and my heart goes out to those families. But at the same time, we have to create some kind of a balance with our economy and stay safe at the same time that we move forward.” He also thanked all the frontline workers and volunteers who are supporting the community during the crisis.

Adams provided an update on the Wayne County Emergency Food Relief Program, which fed about 400 families its first week. Now in its second week, Adams said they have raised well over $100,000 and expect to feed hundreds more than the last. Residents can register for the program by calling 570/253-4262 or visiting waynecountypa.gov. Those who wish to donate to the program can do so at waynefoundation.org.

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