Say what you will about the federal government helping out local governments in the pandemic, but one thing is clear – the federal COVID-19 relief acts of 2020 and 2021 have enhanced the county’s finances.
Between the federal coronavirus rescue acts in 2020 and 2021, Guilford County will have received about $200 million directly when it’s all said and done – and many more millions indirectly.
Earlier this year, Guilford County was granted $104 million on top of about $94 million it got last year in federal help to respond to the pandemic; and, once again, the county now has the task of figuring out the best way to spend all that money.
In addition, Greensboro and High Point combined are getting about $80 million in new federal aid, and the small towns in the county will end up with added funding from federal sources as well.
Recently, Guilford County Manager Mike Halford spoke to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners and laid out some of the parameters for using the federal money.
“The spending guidelines are roughly the same as they were for the prior CARES act assistance – to respond to and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Halford told the board. “The new legislation does allow the county and other local governments to recoup some lost revenue – so that’s a new benefit of these funds that was not available under the prior allocations.”
The county is expecting to receive the $104 million in two roughly equal allocations, with one payment arriving soon and another in about 12 months. The deadline for spending the new money is December 2024.
Halford said the money could be used to make infrastructure improvements such as enhancements to water, sewer and broadband systems. He added that, while there were some “expanded” uses possible when compared to the money granted in 2020, the allowable uses for local governments of the new money were generally kept the same by federal lawmakers.
In addition to the money being given directly to the local governments, there are additional federal allocations for things like the expansion of food and nutrition benefits programs.
Halford also said there will be help for jurisdictions with hurting tourism business, as well as assistance for renters and property owners struggling to make those payments.
“Those are very specific dedicated streams of funding that will come in,” he said, adding that there may be more funding for school nurses and area colleges as well.
“So, the total amount available in Guilford County will be much higher,” Halford said. “It’s a significant amount of money and we have longer to spend it, so I think we won’t be in the rushed position we might have been last year.”