At the July 21 meeting, the Greensboro City Council is scheduled to consider a grant from the US Department of Justice that with past City Councils would be a routine matter.

However, in January, the Greensboro City Council turned down a Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) from the Department of Justice because someone from the Working class & Homeless Organizing Alliance (WHOA) didn’t like some of the language in the small print.

This was a grant that the city had accepted without discussion for years from the Department of Justice, and in December city councilmembers thought they had accepted the grant, but then after one complaint from WHOA decided to put it back on the agenda for another vote.

The issue that caused the City Council not only to turn down $138,000 for Greensboro but also $61,000 for Guilford County and $51,000 for High Point was a clause that stated the city wouldn’t interfere with sharing information regarding “citizenship or immigration status with federal agencies.”

City Councilmember Justin Outling explained that the Greensboro Police Department didn’t collect information on citizenship or immigration status on people stopped or arrested and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) didn’t request the information from the city.

But that was not good enough for the majority of the City Council to agree to accept the JAG, and Mayor Nancy Vaughan and Councilmembers Michelle Kennedy, Sharon Hightower, Tammi Thurm and Yvonne Johnson all voted not to accept the federal money.

The question about this upcoming grant from the Justice Department, which is to provide funding to prevent, prepare for and respond to possible future outbreaks of the coronavirus, is whether the City Council will accept it or not.

The grant would provide funding for the Police Department, the Fire Department and the Neighborhood Development Department and would be used to purchase equipment for decontamination of city facilities, disinfecting emergency response vehicles and personal protective equipment for city employees.

The city staff reportedly doesn’t see a problem with this particular grant, but the city staff didn’t see a problem with the previous Justice Department grant either. Perhaps the City Council will need to wait and see if WHOA gives its approval before making a decision.