Tuesday, 03 August 2021 19:50

Richmond County COVID relief funds held up by 'bureaucratic process'

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Richmond County COVID relief funds held up by 'bureaucratic process' Pixabay

ROCKINGHAM — After several months, Richmond County is “still in the pipeline” to receive funding to help residents with rent, mortgage and utility payments.


County Manager Brian Land told the Richmond County Board of Commissioners Tuesday evening that he and local health officials are being told the $900,000 Community Development Block Grant is “in a holding pattern” — something they’ve been told by the N.C. Department of Commerce for about the past five months.

“We’re still having multiple calls, Zoom meetings, discussions with representatives from Commerce on the status of those funds,” Land said. “They’ve assured us it’s coming, they just can’t guarantee when.”

Land said they were told there are only two individuals handling the processing of more than 30 grants.

According to Land, the Department of Social Services has developed the forms and process for disbursement, and are “just waiting on those funds to arrive.”

When the funding is finally released to the county, it will provide a maximum of $1,000 to around 9,000 Richmond County families to help pay bills.

The county is no longer allowing a COVID-related grace period for the payment of water bills.

Commissioner Tavares Bostic asked for contact information for the individual Land and others have been in contact with so he could call and try to move things along.

“There’s families that need the money,” Bostic said.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended an eviction moratorium through Oct. 3 in all U.S. counties experiencing substantial or high levels of community spread of COVID-19.

However, that order “does not relieve any individual of any obligation” to pay rent or make a housing payment.

Land referenced news reports that only around $3 billion of the $45 billion in aid allocated by Congress has been doled out.

“I think all of us are willing to do anything we can to expedite funds coming to the citizens of Richmond County that need them so desperately,” said Commissioner Dr. Rick Watkins, adding that it’s being tied up in a “bureaucratic process.”

Watkins also suggested having the N.C. Association of County Commissioners to make contact with the legislature “to make sure this money is getting sent to counties so they can be disbursed to our citizens.”