LUMBERTON — The Town of Red Springs will be one the North Carolina municipalities vying for a share of the $175 million being made available to help state residents make rent and utility payments and avoid becoming homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Will will push very diligently to apply for that money,” Town Manager David Ashburn said Wednesday.
Gov. Roy Cooper announced Tuesday that three programs had been established to provide monetary support to municipalities, and their residents, struggling financially because of the pandemic. They are: Eviction Prevention and Utility Payments, with about $94 million available; Crisis Response and Housing Stability, about $53 million; and Local Government Funds, $28 million.
“COVID-19 has strained family finances across North Carolina, and many people are struggling to make ends meet,” Cooper said. “People need a safe, stable place to call home, especially during this pandemic, and we must help keep people in their homes and keep their utilities on while our economy recovers.”
There is an application process for the programs.
Ashburn said Red Springs plans to apply for between $200,000 and $300,000 from the Local Government Funds program, the money from which is to be used to help residents pay overdue utility bills and make rent payments. The town provides electrical power, water and sewer, and trash collection to its residents, who total a little more than 3,400.
But, as of Wednesday afternoon, Red Springs leaders did not know how to apply for the money.
“They have not given us information about what the application process is,” Ashburn said.
As a result, Ashburn, Mayor Edward Henderson and town staffers started contacting other state agencies and organizations, like the N.C. League of Municipalities, trying to learn how to apply for the money.
“Once we figure out how to tap into this it will be a great relief to the people who are struggling to pay their rent and overdue utility bills,” Henderson said.
It will also help the town recoup reserve dollars spent to keep the electricity service running, Ashburn said. The town is owed more than $800,000 in unpaid utility bills.
“It will be good once we figure out how to tap into it,” Ashburn said.
At least some of the needed information was provided by the Lumber River Council of Governments later Wednesday afternoon. The Council sent out an email that explained what each funding program was intended to do and provided application information.
Regarding the Local Government Funds program, the email reads in part, “Approximately $28 million through the NC Department of Commerce through CDBG-CV funds, all communities within the Lumber River Region meet the population thresholds. These funds can be used to assist residents in paying rent and outstanding utility bills.
“The application process for the Local Government Funds is currently open and is on a first-come, first-serve basis. To apply or for more information, you can visit: https://www.nccommerce.com/grants-incentives/disaster-recovery/community-development-block-grant-coronavirus-program-cdbg-cv.”
Community Development Block Grant-Coronavirus, or CDBG-CV, funds typically originate with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Local government leaders often complain that the application process for the grant money is onerous.
According to information from Cooper’s office, the money “will be administered by incorporated municipalities under 50,000 residents and counties under 200,000 residents that apply to participate. Local governments are encouraged to prioritize the money locally to help their residents pay rent and outstanding utility bills.”
The money also can be used to provide support for internet access, food distribution, COVID-19 testing and diagnosis, and employment training for health-care workers, according to Cooper’s office.
“The Commerce Department has a long history of collaborating with our local government partners to administer federal resources during times of crisis,” state Commerce Secretary Anthony Copeland said. “As a ready conduit for vital assistance to North Carolina communities, our CDBG program has proven its value many times over.”
The email from LRCOG informs local government leaders that the Eviction Prevention and Utility Payments money will be distributed by the N.C. Office of Recovery and Resiliency, or NCORR. It is to be used to support rental and utility payments and prevent evictions for people with a demonstrated need. The Crisis Response and Housing Stability money will be distributed through the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services and is to be used to help families that are homeless or face an immediate risk of becoming homeless.
“Application information for those two programs will be coming in the next few weeks,” the email reads in part.
“During this crisis, it is more important than ever that government work smarter and faster to deliver relief to people facing eviction and utility disconnection. NCORR is proud to be partnering across agencies to make the most of federal funds in North Carolina,” Chief Operating Officer Laura Hogshead said.