The State of North Carolina received just over $15 million in federal American Rescue Plan (ARP) money to help social services departments across North Carolina administer Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

The state, through the NC Department of Health and Human Services, is allocating $638,000.39 to Guilford County.

State officials arrived at that amount based on the number of food assistance caseloads in each county.  Every month, Guilford County provides the services to about 53,000 households, issuing about $27 million in benefits. Currently, the county’s social services staff is getting about 3,500 new applications every month for food assistance.

The $638,000 – oh, and 39 cents – will be provided to the county as a reimbursement for expenses after the county shells out county funds for acceptable purposes.

According to information that county staff provided to the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, federal and state guidelines call for the funds to be used to support the administration of food assistance programs – as well as to upgrade technology in ways that will make it easier for people in need to access benefits.

Examples of acceptable uses include “investing in technology tools for online applications, benefits management, and outcome and activities reporting; ensuring client access is mobile friendly; expanding call center capacity; investing in technology and training to modernize service delivery; and reducing barriers to vulnerable populations including those without easy access to technological or remote tools and operations.”

As with much of the money that’s been pouring down on local governments from the federal and state governments, the county has to use it or lose it: Guilford County has until June 2023 to spend this particular tranche of money.

Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services staff have already drawn up a working list of items to purchase, including new computers, scanners, and web tools that help people complete online applications.  County staff are also looking at spending some of the money on language interpretation services for video calls between staff and those who receive the benefits.