Nonprofit leaders plead for $2 million in ARP funds
Leaders of Hendersonville’s two largest apex charities argued before the Board of Commissioners on Wednesday that the mission of the strong nonprofit community here aligns closely with the goals of the US bailout and that these agencies could effectively use ARP money to tackle homelessness. , hunger, mental health needs, child care and more.
McCray Benson, President and CEO of the Community Foundation of Henderson County, and Denise Cumbee Long, Executive Director of United Way,
“We respectfully request that 10%, or at least $2 million, of county ARP law funds be set aside, allowing Henderson County leaders and experienced providers in the nonprofit community to create a targeted approach to key community needs that could be significantly impacted by ARP funds,” the two leaders said in a joint statement following their presentation.
Commissioners took no action after calls from nonprofit leaders, but President Bill Lapsley and Vice President Rebecca McCall, a strong supporter of improving child care, reported that at least part of the request could be funded.
“Your request is timely,” Lapsley said, noting that the board has until December 2024 to appropriate the ARP money and until December 2026 to complete capital projects or services it funds. The board has committed about $18 million of its two-year ARP allocation from the federal government and has $4 million left.
After Benson and Long requested a hearing in April, the board asked its staff to meet with the two executives and help frame the presentation. The two leaders pointed out that nonprofits in the county are now working together to identify needs, find solutions and avoid duplication, that they cover the areas targeted by the bailout and that they are used to the type of accounting and accountability required by the ARP.
“Many of the ARP descriptions and categories considered for assistance align with programs that vendors in the region have been pushed to address to outside capabilities,” Benson said.
Benson and Long cited many specific needs in the community that are already the bailiwick of many nonprofits in social services and other areas, including:
- Domestic violence: “The isolation and increased family stressors during the pandemic have exacerbated interpersonal violence and associated risks,” Long said. “In 2021, Safelight, an agency serving victims of interpersonal violence, saw a 35% increase in calls to its 24/7 emergency helpline, and a 43% increase in number of clients requiring counseling services ARP Act funds could support Safelight services or help fund renovations to the shelter that will be needed or support service delivery during this time of increased demand.
- Hunger: “The onset of the pandemic has led to an exponential increase in the number of people requesting food assistance: access to a food pantry provides financial stability for vulnerable households, allowing people to stretch their budgets for other basic needs such as rent, medicine or utilities,” Benson told.m “High inflation and escalating fuel prices are impacting the ability of MANNA and its partner organizations in the county of Henderson to meet demand. Although the impact of Covid has slowly subsided, demand for food aid has remained high with an estimated 2.1 million pounds to be distributed by June 30, 2022.” ARP money could help food pantries buy the food and equipment needed to distribute it, including refrigerated trucks, freezers, refrigerators, vans and storage.
- Housing: A recent housing survey found that the county has many “cost-overloaded” households — those paying more than 30% of their income in rent or mortgages — with 57% renting and 25% owning in this category. The rental vacancy amounts to 0.2% and 453 candidates are on the waiting list for subsidized housing. “ARP funding could be used to support ongoing affordable housing projects or to develop future projects,” Benson said.
- Child care: A shortage of workers during the pandemic led to a 15% drop in child care at a time when families needed the service to keep working. “Local nonprofits working on early childhood workforce development and retention could be helped by ARP Act funds,” Long said. “Projects are also being developed to help bring high-quality learning and interventions to children who do not attend daycare.”
ARP-endorsed services and local needs parallel, Benson and Long said, and can be met by local nonprofits with a proven track record in these areas. They have engaged with other funders, including the NC Blue Cross/Blue Shield Foundation and the Dogwood Health Foundation, to increase support and potentially matching ARP grants, they said.