Wilmington, Local Counties Anticipate Millions In Relief Funds

By Cece Nunn and Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Apr 16, 2021
Millions of dollars in stimulus funds are coming to communities in the region, and while New Hanover County has adopted an outline for how its estimated $45.4 million could be spent, other governments are at different stages in the planning process.

The city of Wilmington is expected to receive $25.9 million, the result of the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill President Joe Biden signed in March. 

“While the Treasury Department has not yet released guidance for that funding, staff has begun identifying areas where the funding could be used to have the greatest benefit to the community,” said Jennifer Dandron, spokeswoman for the city of Wilmington, in an email.

She said the areas could include:
  • Economic Vitality. Funding could go toward business relief and related community investments. 
  • Community Vitality & Resilience. Funding could go toward non-profits, infrastructure, and public safety, among other things. 
  • Critical Infrastructure Investments. Funding could go toward WiFi and broadband expansion and cyber-security measures.
  • Regional & State Partnerships. Funding could go toward joint projects with partners like the N.C. Department of Transportation and New Hanover County.  
  • Revenue Replacement. Funding could replace any losses in city revenue. 
  • Council & Community Priorities. Funding could go toward Wilmington City Council and community priorities. Council identifies priorities every year as a way to guide staff. 
  • Pandemic Response. Funding could go toward the city’s continued response to the pandemic to cover costs related to PPE, cleaning services, remote meeting costs, and paid leave for employees with virus.”

Meagan Kascsak, spokeswoman for Brunswick County, said the county and other local governments receiving American Rescue Plan funds will have until Dec. 31, 2024, to use their allocated funding. 

“Brunswick County is estimated to receive $27.7 million, which will be dispersed to the county in two increments over that time period. Brunswick County will consider the federal government’s further guidance on the necessary criteria local governments must meet for any expenditures moving forward,” she said in an email. “This guidance from the federal government is essential to ensure that county staff and the Board of Commissioners use these funds as effectively as possible over the 3.5 years of eligibility.”

Pender County is expected to receive around $11 million to $12 million, and definitive plans for the funding have not yet been made, said County Manager Chad McEwen.

“As part of the budget process, we’ll have more formal discussions about the use of that money in terms of our future capital needs,” he said.

New Hanover County in its framework plan identified numerous areas where the money could best be used, from grants for businesses that have suffered as a result of COVID-19 to infrastructure additions. 

New Hanover officials are working to develop “administration and management of each of these funding initiatives to ensure they are successful, and incorporate additional community partners and organizations to help in that effort. As plans are put in place, those details will be shared with the public,” according to an April 5 news release.

New Hanover is expected to receive nearly half of its $45 million in funding by mid-May, with the goal to begin rolling out several programs starting in July.
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