On Thursday, May 7, the Guilford County Board of Commissioners held a special work session to deal with perhaps the most enjoyable subject the board has ever addressed – how to quickly spend $93.7 million dollars.
The county can’t spend the money on anything the commissioners’ desire – it’s a grant from the federal government that must be used to pay for COVID-19 response and preparation, and for other expenses related to the pandemic. The purpose of the work session held in the third-floor conference room of the county-owned BB&T building in downtown Greensboro was for staff to present options to the commissioners.
Guilford County Manager Marty Lawing told the commissioners that staff’s goal was to get a decision in two weeks from the board on how to use the money. Lawing said the nearly $94 million can’t be used to cover revenue shortfalls but he added that there’s some hope that that restriction might be lifted in the future.
If any of the money isn’t spent by December 31 of 2020, it must be sent back to Washington.
At the work session, Guilford County Emergency Management Director Don Campbell did most of the talking. He listed four categories that county staff would like to use the money for: Direct reimbursement for COVID-19 costs incurred by Guilford County, mitigation and preparedness costs for future COVID-19 needs, support for community organizations that have been hurt by the pandemic, and, finally, support for ailing local businesses.
Campbell said county staff was attempting to be extremely transparent in the process due to the size of the grant.
“This is a lot of money,” he said, telling the commissioners something they already knew.
At the meeting, Guilford County Attorney Mark Payne answered several questions on how the money could be spent legally.
Just a few of the things Campbell offered as potential uses for the money are the virus testing the county is now conducting, employee overtime caused by the pandemic, building decontamination costs, county telecommuting abilities and school needs related to the virus.