Building a strong & equitable COVID recovery: one year out, Buncombe’s ARPA funding is making a difference

Press release from Buncombe County Government:

During the height of the pandemic, Asheville-based Babies Need Bottoms saw a nearly 400% increase in demand for diaper distribution. Thanks to $50,000 as part of Buncombe County’s distribution of nearly $51 million in COVID Recovery Funding through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), the Asheville-based nonprofit is partnering with early child care centers to provide much-needed diapers for the 33% of families that struggle to afford basic needs for their infants. “One partner recently shared with us: ‘We have parents with multiple children in our program express how grateful they are not to have to worry about providing their children diapers when they are at school. They have even cried in relief when we told them they did not have to bring them,’” shares Co-Executive Director of Babies Need Bottoms Alicia Heacock.

Buncombe County is approaching the one-year anniversary of the first allotment of Recovery Funding awards as efforts continue to mitigate effects of the years-long COVID-19 global pandemic. Commissioners have been intentional about using this one-time infusion of federal funding to help with continued economic recovery and community-based projects providing vital services, especially for underserved populations. “Through this funding, we can support small businesses, help residents get back to work, keep food on their tables, stay in their homes, and maintain and create infrastructure,” says Strategic Partnerships Director Rachael Nygaard.

In all, Buncombe County has awarded $46.8 million for 49 projects addressing crucial issues and community needs. “From 2020 to 2022, we lost 85% of the annual Victims of Crime Act funding, with the largest cuts impacting our underserved population grant,” notes Pisgah Legal Services Managing Attorney Julia Horrocks. “Without the ARPA funding, we would have had to drastically reduce our Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention attorneys and support staff right as we started seeing survivors expressing a readiness to leave their abusers as the economy, childcare, and other factors normalize.”

And Pisgah Legal Services isn’t the only nonprofit seeing a rise in the need for services coupled with a loss of previously reliable funding. “The pandemic made many survivors of sexual assault and human trafficking feel more isolated from family and friends,” explains Our Voice Executive Director Rita Sneider-Cotter. “The Buncombe ARPA funding allowed Our Voice to maintain staffing and consistently be available when survivors in Buncombe County need help.”

Projects funded

The 49 projects Commissioners have funded through the first year of ARPA allocations represent the diverse needs of our community that have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The following is a brief breakdown of how that money has been distributed based on categories:

• Affordable Housing & Homelessness: $13.15 million
• Broadband infrastructure: $6 million
• Public sector workforce premium pay/retention bonuses, provision of government services, administrative expenses, and other government expenses: $5.27 million
• Mental health and substance use services: $3.94 million
• Child care, early childhood learning, and education assistance: $3.87 million
• Small business and nonprofit economic assistance, aid to impacted industries, and other economic support: $3.27 million
• Community violence interventions: $2.66 million
• Food & other household relief: $2.56 M
• COVID prevention and other public health services: $3.08 million
• Water and sewer infrastructure: $2 million
• Neighborhood improvement: $1 million

Buncombe County is committed to showing transparency in all phases of ARPA funding, from applications to following up on the stated goals of initiatives awarded funding. To that end, the County’s ARPA website has a dashboard that lets you track all projects awarded funding, and you can view our annual reports for more detailed information on all 49 of those projects. Additionally, all ARPA awards are monitored and reported on to the U.S. National Treasury.

2021 annual report
2022 annual report

Next steps

Buncombe County has just under $4 million dollars left in ARPA funding. Commissioners will consider how to distribute the rest of the money in 2023. All funds must be fully spent by Dec. 31, 2026.


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