Sharing the love: China Grove weighs ARP fund disbursement

Published 12:03 am Tuesday, December 13, 2022

How much federal relief money should a town give to a nonprofit organization that helped weather the COVID-19 storm?

One China Grove town council member wants to see a local nonprofit organization benefit from the windfall of cash from Washington. However, the measure gained little traction at the town’s latest meeting over an application for $35,000 from Main Street Mission.

“I’m disappointed in my fellow board members for not wanting to support our local nonprofit,” China Grove Councilwoman Cheryl Sheets said. 

Sheets indicated that she wanted to see an application for the dispersal of American Rescue Plan relief funding approved or denied so that the nonprofit organization that had applied would know if they would receive anything.

“Many individuals, businesses and nonprofits were impacted during COVID and still struggling when we received our ARP funding in December 2021,” Sheets said in an email. “Knowing that, I requested that we contract with nonprofits and award them funds based on the impact they faced and the services they had provided during the pandemic.”

Within the parameters of the relief funding, there are four expenditure groupings:

  1. Addressing the COVID-19 public health emergency and its negative economic impacts (on public health as well as addressing economic harms to households, small businesses, nonprofits, impacted industries and the public sector).
  2. Premium pay for eligible workers performing essential work during the pandemic
  3. Necessary water, wastewater and broadband infrastructure
  4. Revenue replacement for lost revenue growth

To process any possible requests for assistance, Sheets indicated that the town staff created an application on China Grove’s website. 

“Other than churches, I believe there are only three nonprofits in China Grove: Main Street Mission, Roller Mill and (Cabarrus Rowan Community Health Center),” Sheets said. “Main Street Mission was the only application submitted.”

Sheets remarked that the town council opted to wait to make any allocations.  

“In June, no funds were allocated to nonprofits in the town’s budget,” Sheets said. “In October, council accepted the balance of their ARP funds ($1,284,903) to the revenue loss category and allocated that balance to salaries. This freed budgeted dollars to be used as unrestricted in the general fund. As of (this month), the nonprofit application or funding the request had not been discussed by the (town) council.”

The inaction is what Sheets explained led to her raising the issue at Tuesday’s meeting.

Given the amount of relief funding made available to China Grove and Main Street Mission’s organizational outreach of partnering needy families with local food producers, Sheets mentioned that she would like to see them receive something. 

“Money has been budgeted for nonprofits in the past,” Sheets said. “Almost every city gives a percentage of their overall budget to nonprofits, and we have $1.3 million. We are saying, out of all that, we are going to spend it on capital for China Grove and that we cannot afford to support the Main Street Mission?”

Fellow town council members did not outright disagree with Sheets’ assessment that Main Street Mission does good things for the people of China Grove but did tap the brakes when discussing dollar amounts. 

“I feel we have an obligation,” Councilman Don Bringle said. “I don’t know that we have a $35,000 obligation. I would like to see our town look at being able to contribute some money towards them. I know what they asked for is less than what they probably need. I would be supportive of some amount of money that could be discussed and brought back to the board in January.”

Bringle urged patience when discussing the needs of China Grove residents. 

“In our budget process, there are benevolent funds, but you have to be careful because everyone’s need is as great as everyone else’s,” Bringle said. 

Town Councilman Steve Stroud added, “I don’t think with the expenses we are facing as a town that we should give away funds to any nonprofit. If it’s not doing the whole town some good, we need to do something that does.”

China Grove’s next regularly-scheduled monthly meeting is at Town Hall on Jan. 4, 2023, at 6 p.m.