Ask Us: Did Rowan County return federal funding that could have helped businesses?

Published 12:53 pm Monday, February 28, 2022

Editor’s note: Ask Us is a weekly feature published online Mondays and in print on Tuesdays. We’ll seek to answer your questions about items or trends in Rowan County. Have a question? Email it to

SALISBURY — Rowan County government returned several thousand dollars in COVID-19 relief funding, but a vast majority of the funding was spent.

A reader asked whether Rowan County gave back any of the money it received by way of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act. Specifically, the reader was interested if any money available for small business relief was returned.

Signed into law on March 27, 2020, the CARES Act was a $2.2 economic stimulus bill passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to direct payments sent to U.S. citizens, the bill provided funding to state and local governments.

Rowan County received approximately $7.5 million in restricted CARES funds split across 25 grants, according to Finance Director Jim Howden. A portion of the money went to municipalities. Other funds were earmarked for particular divisions, including the Rowan County Health Department or specific purposes related to public health such as the purchase of personal protective equipment.

The Board of Commissioners in late 2020 set aside some CARES Act funding to create a small business grant program for local companies. A hiccup along the way occurred when 16 applications were misplaced during the process. But the businesses eligible for funding who slipped through the cracks initially did receive grants. Then in early 2021, the county created a similar program for locally-owned restaurants that may have been ineligible for the small business grants due to having more than 25 employees.

Through the two programs, county government distributed 93 grants totaling $375,000, Howden said. Most of the grant funding was allocated through the initial small business grant program. Commissioners allocated $250,000 for the restaurant grant program, but only a dozen owners applied and fewer than 10 were approved for funding.

While Howden said the county did not return any money available for use to help small business, Rowan County sent $9,500 back earmarked for use by the Board of Elections. The money for the Board of Elections was designed to pay for personal protective equipment, additional staffing and other uses specifically for the November 2020 election. Howden said not all of the funding was utilized. As a result, the county returned the leftover money.

About Ben Stansell

Ben Stansell covers business, county government and more for the Salisbury Post. He joined the staff in August 2020 after graduating from the University of Alabama. Email him at

email author More by Ben