Guilford commissioners set to spend millions to fight pandemic | local government

GREENSBORO — Elected officials took tenuous steps Thursday to spend some of the $104 million pledged by Guilford County under the American Rescue Plan Act.

During a working session of the Board of Commissioners, County Executive Michael Halford outlined how the county could spend nearly $62 million of that money. The proposed allocations were based on previous council leadership, community contributions and needs as perceived by county staff, Halford said.

For some projects, however, Halford investigated whether the commissioners were supportive enough to set aside money to pursue them.

“They are urgent immediately or they will take time to do and we need to have that initial time to start now,” Halford told the commissioners.

However, the commissioners were reluctant to commit much of the money without more details about the projects and how they would benefit the community.

“What’s the return on investment for spending $10 million here or $5 million here?” asked commissioner Alan Perdue.

People also read…

Halford agreed more details are needed, but said the projects fall under priorities previously identified by the board.

“We need to start moving those dollars around,” Halford said.

Chairman Melvin “Skip” Alston suggested that the board have a working session devoted to funding the U.S. bailout and staff-recommended projects after the county finalizes its annual budget in late June.

“I wonder if it would be helpful if the commissioners had a bit of homework before this working session in their free time to dig into those lists,” said commissioner Carly Cooke.

Commissioners have informally agreed to set aside funds for certain projects due to their urgent nature. They understand:

$10 million to support foundational strategy, integrated services and data sharing for healthy early childhood environments and education. This total includes submissions from Say Yes Guilford; Ready for school, ready for life; and United Way of Greensboro.

$350,000 to increase the number of foster families by 150. This money would be used by the county’s Department of Social Services, which works closely with the Children’s Home Society. “We’ve lost families during COVID,” Halford said.

$1.7 million for the Family Justice Center/Department of Social Services Protective Services Team. The money would pay for eight social service workers, which Halford said would provide a more seamless service to families seeking help.

$400,000 to expand the County EMT and Paramedic Academy.

$1.1 million to start a County Fire Academy to help increase the number of firefighters.

$600,000 for the Tenant Education, Advocacy and Mediation Project. This is an ongoing project of Legal Aid of North Carolina, in conjunction with the UNCG, which focuses on deportation diversion. A total of $2.6 million has been requested for four to five years. However, with the contract effective June 30, Halford will seek formal approval to fund one year of the project at a meeting of commissioners next month.

Contact Kenwyn Caranna at 336-373-7082 and follow @kcaranna on Twitter.