Chatham County’s COVID Funds

by Casey Mann, Senior Correspondent

Chatham County received close to $3 million COVID relief funding from the state. The funding comes with restrictions as to how it can be spent including:

The expenses must be incurred in response to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19);

The expenses were not accounted for in the most recently approved budget;

The expenses must be incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020.

The funding also included regulations that 25% of the funds should be disbursed to each of the county’s municipalities. To date, the county has released just over half of those funds so far.

The county used a portion of the funding to support the work of the county while remaining safe under COVID conditions. This included purchasing teleworking equipment, plexiglass and protective barriers, upfitting audio and visual technology at the Chatham County Agricultural and Conference Center for access to public meetings, upfitting buildings for safer operations when reopening, and supporting nonprofits and the Chatham County Department of Social Services.

County non-profits received just over $200,000 in relief for unexpected expenses incurred between March 1 and July 31 and COVID related expenses anticipated in the future. Non-profits that received financial support through COVID relief funds included Chatham Trades, Fearrington Cares, Central Piedmont Community Action, Chatham Partnership for Children, CORA, the Chatham Council on Aging, the West Chatham Food Pantry, the Salvation Army, the Hispanic Liaison, and the Sprott Center in Moncure among others.

Each of the municipalities were awarded a share of the funding on a per capita basis. Siler City received the greatest amount in excess of $381,000 followed by Pittsboro at $206,000. Cary, which governs a portion of the northeastern section of Chatham County received $126,000 and Goldston received just over $12,000.

According to Siler City Town Manager Roy Lynch, the town had already incurred some expenditures related to fees associated with virtual meetings, mitigation materials, cleaning equipment and PPE that some of the funding will be used to reimburse, but the plans for the remaining amount are under discussion.

“This is a substantial amount of money and the Board will be discussing other options to determine the most beneficial use for the funds,” Lynch said.

On Oct. 12, the Pittsboro Board of Commissioners passed a budget amendment accepting its portion of COVID relief funding. The budget amendment says the money will be used for “public safety salaries and benefits” during the pandemic.

“We have spent unrestricted revenue towards our COVID-19 response, so with these CRF funds, a restricted revenue, we can replenish our unrestricted revenue coffers for other purposes now that we are in receipt of the CRF funds,” Pittsboro Town Manager Chris Kennedy said.