In the movie “Brewster’s Millions,” the character played by Richard Pryor had to spend $30 million in 30 days, and, spoiler alert, he had trouble doing it; however, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners had no trouble whatsoever spending $37 million in 30 minutes.
At a 4 p.m. work session on Thursday, Oct. 6, in the Carolyn Q. Coleman Conference Room – formerly known as the Blue Room – in the Old Guilford County Court House in downtown Greensboro, the commissioners voted to allocate $37 million in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) money.
The good news is that it is not Guilford County taxpayer money but instead is free money from the federal government, therefore Guilford County residents don’t have to worry about where the money is coming from unless they happen to pay federal taxes in addition to their county property taxes and sales taxes.
The commissioners got a late start to the meeting, however, once they did they sent out money with lightning speed, cleaning out just about all of the last of $104,339,752 in federal ARPA funds the county received.
What’s truly mind-blowing is that this type of amazingly massive disbursement of federal funds is currently going on in counties and other local governments all over the country.
Here’s a list of the funding the commissioners approved in a matter of minutes:
•$10 million for the Integrated Collaborative Service Network “to create an integrated system designed to help coordinate and deliver services to Guilford County residents in need.”
•$1.5 million for the Ready for School, Ready for Life program to support a “service navigator” in each OB/GYN and pediatric practice in Guilford County. They’ll “act as liaisons between families and local service providers, social service organizations, and government representatives,” and will be “engaged in community outreach, screening, document preparation, and application assistance and intake.”
•$1 million for the Tomorrow’s Titans program to decrease violence and promote well-being for people 14 to 24 years of age.
• $500,000 for Shift Ed – formerly known as Say Yes Guilford – to “address barriers impacting student success from birth through a career by using an Educational Continuum of Care approach.”
• $8 million for a new Guilford County Housing and Homelessness Task Force. Chairman of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners Skip Alston has stated that that’s just a small amount of the total money needed. It is essentially “seed money” to start growing the program, he said last week.
•$2.2 million for “eviction mediation” – to help residents in financial trouble avoid an eviction judgment and remain in their homes.
•$3 million to expand substance abuse treatment and fund transitional
housing services for pregnant women and women with children.
•$1.5 million to help provide therapeutic services for foster kids with mental illness.
•$2.2 million in funding to Cone Health to expand telehealth services to 20 schools as part of the plan to have more telehealth services available in elementary schools.
•$2.5 million for ArtsGreensboro “to support artists working to recover from the economic impacts created by the COVID-19 pandemic and provide a framework for a new, more sustainable arts sector.”
•$2 million to the Nussbaum Center for a special project.
• $1.2 million for Action Greensboro to support workforce development programs and do other things.
• $300,000 for the maker space Forge Greensboro to help residents gain access to “cost-prohibitive tools and equipment.” They are cost-prohibited no more apparently.
• $1 million for a new Transportation Task Force – “to convene and support” the new interagency body and “to identify transportation challenges and enact initiatives to support transportation improvements for Guilford County’s growing workforce and underserved communities.”
• $500,000 to the Town of Sedalia to support “community projects.”
• $1 million to the Rhino Times to promote “a better-informed community.” (OK, this wasn’t really one of the funded entities, however, given the length and eclectic nature of the list the Rhino Times would not have been surprised to see this one on it.)
This spending happened two days after the State of North Carolina’s Local Government Commission gave the county the green light to raise $1.7 billion from the school bond referendum voters approved in May. Unfortunately, unlike ARPA money that money is not free money.