The amount of money in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is about $1.9 trillion, and roughly $104 million is going to be spent by the Guilford County Board of Commissioners.
Exactly how the county will spend that money is undetermined right now. However, on Tuesday, May 25, the commissioners met in the Blue Room of the Old Guilford County Court House to begin to chart a course for the funds.
The work session, which was held at 4 p.m. Tuesday, lasted for just over two hours. During the meeting, the board discussed a wide variety of options including everything from small business grants to school system requests to infrastructure needs such as enhanced broadband internet in the county.
At several points in the meeting, Chairman of the Board of Commissioners Skip Alston and other commissioners spoke of using the money “strategically.” The commissioners said it was important to use the funds to advance the county’s goals and also to coordinate the county’s spending with the other federal relief/stimulus money that’s coming to the schools and the cities and towns.
The commissioners and county staff are very cautious about using one-time funds for recurring needs. They don’t want to fund an initiative that will be left high and dry once the federal money runs out.
Commissioner Kay Cashion said the county should think very carefully about making commitments it can’t follow through on.
“The advice we’ve been given is to be very strategic with this and not get ourselves in a bind in the future,” Cashion said.
Guilford County Manager Mike Halford was Guilford County’s budget director for 14 years and he, also, warned that the county needs to remain cognizant of future funding needs for anything that starts now with federal funds. He said that he didn’t want a program or newly funded positions to “fall off a cliff” in the future once the federal money is gone.
After the meeting, Alston said the board received a lot of good information but the county is still in an information gathering stage. He said there are remaining questions about how the money can be used.
The commissioners are taking things slowly. There was a great deal of detail in the discussion and the board heard from two experts on the particulars of the federal funding.
The experts gave their reports virtually and several commissioners also decided to attend the event remotely.