One Buncombe Fund distributes over $1.3M in COVID-19 relief

One Buncombe Fund individual assistance distribution
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Residents of all but one Buncombe County ZIP code, 28753, received assistance for housing, utilities and other needs from the One Buncombe Fund. Most of the 28753 ZIP code is in Madison County. Graphic courtesy of Buncombe County

Local governments and area residents have teamed up to offer a substantial helping hand for Buncombe County during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to Kit Cramer, chair of the Buncombe County Service Foundation, the One Buncombe Fund has disbursed more than $1.3 million in individual grants and low-interest business loans to county residents since being established in late March.

During an Aug. 18 presentation to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners, Cramer said 1,048 households had received over $453,000 in emergency assistance from the fund for necessities such as housing, utilities and transportation. Nearly $853,000 had been loaned to 92 area businesses to help them weather the coronavirus’s economic impacts, contributing to the retention of 674 jobs.

“We were meeting on a regular basis to talk about how we could react effectively to the massive number of workers who were laid off through no fault of their own and the number of small businesses who were facing immediate loss of income because of COVID-19,” Cramer recalled about early conversations with county staff and commissioners. “We were looking for something we could do to help meet that need immediately, and One Buncombe was that solution.”

Cramer also thanked community members for their generosity, noting that over $1 million of the fund had come from individual donations, corporate sponsorships and grants. The remainder came from government allocations: Buncombe County contributed $200,000, while the city of Asheville gave $100,000.

Awards from the fund were made with an eye toward racial equity, added Cramer. Black residents, who make up about 6.3% of the county population, received 12.5% of the individual assistance grants; minority-owned firms, which comprise roughly 10% of Buncombe businesses, got 29% of the loans.

The names of specific business loan recipients, however, were not made public. As previously reported by Xpress (see “On the money,” May 13), because the program is managed by the nonprofit Mountain BizWorks, the details of loan decisions and awards are not subject to government transparency rules.

One loan recipient did address the commission to express her gratitude for the funding. Pam Granger Gale, owner of Asheville-based art teaching business Majik Studios, said the stress she’d experienced as an entrepreneur during the early days of the pandemic was “nothing like I have felt — ever.”

“When I received the One Buncombe Fund loan, one major piece of the puzzle was filled, and my anxiety levels subsided,” Granger Gale continued. “I was able to breathe knowing that while I could not have in-person classes, I had the financial support I needed to pay rent, utilities and insurance on my studio space.”

Business owners will begin repaying their loans in the fall, Cramer said. That money will then be recirculated into the community according to its greatest needs, with potential uses including additional business loans and individual grants to help prevent evictions.

Although the One Buncombe Fund is no longer actively fundraising, Cramer noted, donations are still being accepted at


Thanks for reading through to the end…

We share your inclination to get the whole story. For the past 25 years, Xpress has been committed to in-depth, balanced reporting about the greater Asheville area. We want everyone to have access to our stories. That’s a big part of why we've never charged for the paper or put up a paywall.

We’re pretty sure that you know journalism faces big challenges these days. Advertising no longer pays the whole cost. Media outlets around the country are asking their readers to chip in. Xpress needs help, too. We hope you’ll consider signing up to be a member of Xpress. For as little as $5 a month — the cost of a craft beer or kombucha — you can help keep local journalism strong. It only takes a moment.

About Daniel Walton
Daniel Walton is the former news editor of Mountain Xpress. His work has also appeared in Sierra, The Guardian, and Civil Eats, among other national and regional publications. Follow me @DanielWWalton

Before you comment

The comments section is here to provide a platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate. Xpress editors are determined to moderate comments to ensure a constructive interchange is maintained. All comments judged not to be in keeping with the spirit of civil discourse will be removed and repeat violators will be banned. See here for our terms of service. Thank you for being part of this effort to promote respectful discussion.

Leave a Reply

To leave a reply you may Login with your Mountain Xpress account, connect socially or enter your name and e-mail. Your e-mail address will not be published. All fields are required.