Guilford County didn’t exactly win the lottery when it came to federal funding in the first federal COVID-19 relief program earlier this year.
However, it’s unique situation, along with the particular rules of the quickly drawn-up relief legislation, distinctly shook out in Guilford County’s financial favor.
Guilford County Commissioner Hank Henning pointed out this week just how fortunate Guilford County was when it came to the first round of federal funding. He said that, since Guilford County has a population of over 500,000 – and because it has just barely over that amount – the county did really, really well in the first major federal relief act, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, And Economic Security Act, better known as the CARES act.
The federal government passed the legislation on Friday, March 27 of this year to provide funding to cover COVID-19-related expenses that were, or will be, incurred between March 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020.
Local governments with populations of over 500,000 were eligible for direct payment of the CARES funding, which meant four local governments in North Carolina qualified: Guilford County, Mecklenburg County, Wake County and the City of Charlotte. Those four governments got large, direct and immediate payouts from the feds. Guilford County, for instance, was immediately on the receiving end of $93.7 million in cash.
The CARES act did also provide $3.5 billion in funds to the state to distribute, but that means that other local governments are getting significantly less funding per resident than the four lucky local governments received – and that money is more difficult to obtain and often takes much longer to get spent toward the needs.
“If you had a population of over 500,000, you got the funds directly from the feds,” Henning said. “We just made the threshold.”
Henning said that other counties that may have populations of say, 200,000 or 300,000 are ending up with significantly less relief money per resident.
He said that, even though Guilford County is benefiting from the situation, he feels a little guilty when he thinks of other local governments – like neighboring Forsyth County, which is relatively large and facing major challengers, but which did not get the benefit of a large direct federal payout.
Henning added that Guilford County certainly can use the funds given all the challenges it faces due to the pandemic. So far, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners has voted to use tens of millions of the dollars to help small businesses, buy distance-learning computers for the schools and aid area non-profits.