HARRISBURG - Northumberland County has received official notification of a monthlong extension to provide additional information to address the payback of state grant money for the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP).

Commissioner Richard Shoch provided The News-Item Friday with a copy of a letter from the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) to U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, R-11, that states the Feb. 7 deadline has been extended to March 11. The letter is dated Feb. 12, which was 11 days after Barletta wrote a letter to DCED on behalf of the commissioners seeking to have the deadline extended 30 days.

During Tuesday's commissioners' meeting, Shoch said the county was anticipating an extension to provide more information to DCED to address the payback of state grant money for the HPRP.

HPRP was authorized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), and the funding was dispersed to state and local governments to keep individuals in their homes or to help individuals and families who were already homeless find affordable housing. The county received $365,361 from DCED to implement the program, and it must provide documentation to support the use of $215,150.66 to clients deemed ineligible by DCED.

The following are excerpts from the letter sent to Barletta by Clyde "Champ" Holman, deputy secretary for Community Affairs and Development with DCED.

"As a courtesy to you, the Department of Community and Economic Development agrees to extend the deadline," he wrote. "If the county is unable to meet the extended deadline, we encourage the county to propose a repayment schedule to DCED.

"We thought it would be helpful to provide a chronology of DCED'S efforts to provide training and technical assistance to the county and to highlight that DCED has previously extended deadlines," he wrote.

"As you may be aware, the performance review was conducted on July 20, 2012. At the conclusion of the review, DCED staff met with county staff and expressed concerns due to the lack of documentation to support costs under the program. At that time, DCED staff reiterated previous training and technical assistance regarding the required information/documentation necessary to support costs expended under the HPRP grant. Up through November 2012, the county continued to provide and DCED continued to accept for review additional documentation to support case files.

"On Nov. 28, 2012, DCED staff and I met with one of the county commissioners and their staff to review the issues contained in the performance review. At the conclusion of the meeting, DCED agreed to delay the issuance of the performance review report. This delay was in response to the county and legislative delegation's request, which provided them additional time to obtain the necessary information."

Holman provided summary of information and technical assistance provided to the county.

"In particular, HUD guidance on eligibility determination and documentation guidance was provided to the county on May 20, 2010, which details the documentation necessary for the program files and documentation on determining client eligibility," Holman wrote.

Accompanying the two-page letter was a list of dates involving DCED training for the program and announcements about HPRP issues.

Also included was a list of 24 dates where DCED says it addressed or sent e-mails to Northumberland County staff regarding the program from Sept. 10, 2009, through Jan. 31, 2012.

On Jan. 20, 2012, DCED said it sent an e-mail to county grants manager Kathy Jeremiah asking her to confirm whether or not clients who were being assisted with HPRP funds had lease agreements. Documented for the same date is this note, "Received an e-mail from Kathy with a response from Gregg Stavinski (director of county Adult Services) stating that the county did not have lease agreements on file for any consumers." The second half of the sentence, starting at "the county," is underlined for emphasis in DCED's list.

The same day, DCED contacted Jeremiah by phone "to express DCED staff concerns of not having lease agreements," and says a conference call was suggested involving DCED staff, Jermiah and Stavinski. That call was made on Jan. 31, 2012, and DCED notes in its documentation for that date, "It does not appear that they are following the program guidelines and the staff at DCED expressed their concerns that money may need to be repaid."