How should Mecklenburg County spend $215 million in COVID-19 relief funds?

CHARLOTTE — Mecklenburg County has $215 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding that leaders are looking to spend. Commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday night asking for input on where it should go. The funds must be allocated by the end of 2024 and spent by the end of 2026.

“Tonight, we are asking the public on how and where the county’s $215 million on American Rescue Plan funds should be spent,” County Manager Dena Diorio said.

[Here’s how much the city of Charlotte will pay workers to get vaccinated]

Following that charge, dozens of people made their case to county commissioners that their cause or their organization should be considered for funding. NAACP President Corine Mack called on leaders to dedicate funding to people who have been disproportionally impacted by COVID-19.

“Because we know COVID-19 has had an adverse effect on people of color, specifically, it is important we elevate those communities,” Mack said.

Another major concern is food insecurity. Channel 9 has covered numerous food giveaways with dozens if not hundreds of people lining up for free groceries and goods. Loaves and Fishes representatives told commissioners the need is still there.

“The economic recovery is slow and unfortunately, there is no vaccine for that,” Tina Postel said.

Restaurant and bar owners asked commissioners to keep in mind many of their businesses are still struggling and it won’t be easy to bounce back.

“Help existing employers keep the lights on,” restaurant owner Anthony Keary said.

[‘Much-needed’: INLIVIAN awarded $2M in emergency housing voucher funds]

“As you guys are figuring out where to put some of these allocated funds, just don’t forget about those restaurants and bars that have been hurt and crushed by this,” bar owner Johnny Martin said.

The county has already some funding doled out.

In August, commissioners approved spending more than $11 million on a new pedestrian bridge over the Blue Line and Norfolk Southern tracks in northeast Charlotte. It will connect the Eastway Recreation Center to the Northeast Community Resource Center. The resource center is under construction now and is near Hidden Valley, a neighborhood where residents are asking the county to invest in with this funding.

(Watch the video below: Some say access to east Charlotte rec center is problematic)

“Please do not overlook Hidden Valley,” resident Charlene Henderson said.

In August, commissioners also approved spending $792,000 on $2,000 bonuses for 396 employees in the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office. Commissioners also spent $372,000 on a plan to transition Tent City residents out of their hotels.