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Cumberland County nonprofits get another shot at ARPA funding


Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Brightspeed was the internet provider for the  Completing Access to Broadband project. A provider has not been selected. CityView Today apologizes for this error.

Nonprofit entities in Cumberland County will have another chance to apply for federal American Rescue Plan Act funding. The county’s American Rescue Plan committee voted unanimously Thursday to reopen applications through its Nonprofit Assistance Program. 

According to a Jan. 18 memorandum from Tye Vaught, the county’s chief of staff, the county’s board of commissioners voted in April and June to award a total of more than $1.7 million in funds to 40 nonprofits. Each nonprofit could receive up to $50,000, Vaught said. 

Vaught told commissioners Jimmy Keefe, Toni Stewart and Glenn Adams on Thursday that the Nonprofit Assistance Program’s $3.5 million budget still had $1,750,356 remaining to be spent. Nonprofits that previously applied and did not receive money could reapply, as could nonprofits that received less than the $50,000 individual award limit, Vaught said. 

The county’s available ARPA funding is part of a $1.9 trillion federal stimulus package signed by President Joe Biden in 2021 to assist state and municipalities with public health and economic recovery. Cumberland County received $65 million in total ARPA funds, according to the county.

Program applications will be open from Feb. 1-29, according to Vaught. 

Broadband expansion

The committee also unanimously approved allocating $2.8 million to serve as the 35% match required for the state’s Completing Access to Broadband program, which has a total budget of $8 million for Cumberland County’s project, according to Vaught.

According to the N.C. Dept. of Information Technology’s website, the CAB program allows counties to partner with the department “to fund broadband deployment projects in unserved areas of each county.” The General Assembly allocated $400 million in ARPA funds for the program in 2021, the website states. Counties and the selected broadband providers must provide matching investments in the program, according to the website.

The $2.8 million will come from a $3 million pot of ARPA funds previously reserved for renovations to the historic courthouse’s courtroom, which would serve as a boardroom for county commissioners, according to a Jan. 18 memo from Vaught. Those plans were changed after staff determined funds could not be used for that purpose, as only enhancements to the HVAC were considered eligible under federal guidelines, Vaught said.

Keefe noted the importance of internet access for families with children. 

“If you don’t have internet, you don’t have a teacher in some places,” he said. “This is important, not only to connectivity but to [the] education of kids.” 

In other business:

    • The committee unanimously voted to amend contracts for small business owners awarded funding through the county’s Small Business Economic Assistance Program. Instead of receiving quarterly payments, eligible businesses will receive their awards in lump sums. 
      • Why it matters: The program, intended to help small businesses impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, previously faced criticism from some participants, who complained about delayed payments. 
    • The committee unanimously approved designating $10 million currently allocated for the Gray’s Creek water and sewer district project as revenue for its first phase. 
      • Why it matters: Gray’s Creek’s water supply is contaminated with GenX, a “forever chemical” produced by the nearby Chemours plant. The county is working to “bring potable public water” to the area, according to a Jan. 22 memo from Amanda Bader, the county’s general manager for natural resources. 
      • What’s next: Bader said Thursday she hopes to have contracts in place for the project by the end of the year. The board of commissioners will vote on the $10 million allocation at its Feb. 8 agenda session.
  • Vaught told the committee the county has currently spent $28 million in ARPA funds, with about $41 million remaining. He said $19.3 million of that money has been allocated to affordable housing projects and $10 million has been reserved for the Gray’s Creek water and sewer project.

Reporter Lexi Solomon can be reached at lsolomon@cityviewnc.com or 910-423-6500.

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Cumberland County Board of Commissioners, ARPA, nonprofits, GenX, Gray's Creek, broadband