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Local NAACP, Heggins call for ‘equity lens’ for city’s COVID-19 funds

SALISBURY — In a video conference hosted by the North Carolina Black Alliance, Salisbury-Rowan NAACP president Gemale Black and Salisbury Mayor Pro Tem Al Heggins urged an equitable distribution of federal coronavirus grant funds.

At last week’s Salisbury City Council meeting, members received a presentation about Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus funds, of which the city will allocate $168,950 to local organizations serving residents affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the meeting, Heggins raised concerns about the lack of awareness about the grant and a fast-approaching deadline. She wanted to ensure nontraditional nonprofits would have an equal opportunity to receive grant monies.

The city council pushed the deadline for applications from May 8 to May 22.

Heggins referred to the Budget & Tax Center’s Economic snapshot of Rowan County from May that shows 12.2% of residents don’t have health insurance, the life expectancy for white newborns is 75.6 years compared to 73.2 for black newborns and that there is one mental health provider for every 446 residents. In the county, rent is unaffordable for 41.3% of renters.

Heggins said the city needs to have “an equity lens” when organizations apply for federal funds the city has received.

“It has to be opened up so that every organization that is providing relief in this city has an opportunity to recapture some of the money they have spent and continue to provide the important services that they have been providing on the ground all along unnoticed,” Heggins said.

Local nonprofits can apply by visiting Salisburync.gov/CDBG.

Danielle Brown, the NC Black Voters Matter state coordinator, said the organization has created a mutual aid fund and recommended organizations apply at blackvotersmatterfund.org.

During the video conference, Heggins also expressed her concerns about not enough people practicing social distancing and wearing masks.

Veleria Levy, a Rowan County resident, called on the 28 participants on the call to reach out to the community to protect each other.

“I have a real concern about our community walking around like the disease can’t kill them,” Levy said. “When you see something, say something: ‘Do you need a mask? Can I get you a mask? Is there anything I can do for your family?’ ”

Marcus Bass, the alliance’s executive director, said one of its focuses is ensuring the 2020 election is protected and voters are safe in that process.

“There is going to be a lot more to this 2020 election than just registering people to vote,” Bass said, adding that ensuring the safety of voters is the top concern.

Local pastor Anthony Smith said he wants to look at other communities’ strategies of mobilizing voters to the polls and ways that the Rowan County community can put those in place.

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