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County will invite nonprofits to apply for Rescue Act money

Henderson County is preparing to accept requests from nonprofit organizations for money from the American Rescue Plan Act, Board of Commissioners Chairman Bill Lapsley said Tuesday.

"One of the things we'll announce publicly is that we want to consider funding requests from nonprofits," Lapsley told the Local Government Committee for Cooperative Action, a quarterly meeting of elected leaders of the county and five cities. On Wednesday, Lapsley directed staff to draft a form nonprofits can use to apply for the rescue plan money. Commissioners agreed the county would not release the forms until they were sure funding nonprofit requests is permissable.

Flat Rock Mayor Nick Weedman endorsed the idea of a coordinating committee of representatives from the county and each city that would review applications to prevent "a large sum of money flowing to one organization and none to the others."

Lapsley said the county expects to receive the first half of its $22.7 million rescue act allocation in the next 30 days. "When they wire that money to us, we will receive a list of restrictions," he said, "things that are eligible programs we can consider using those funds for."

When they first received news of the grant, "Our first reaction was, 'here we go, we're adding to the deficit.' It's not something we asked for but it's coming," Lapsley said. There was talk briefly about declining the money. "But I think the response I got was, that's not going to happen. If we send it back somebody else is going to get it."

The rescue act money is different from the CARES Act funding Congress passed last March, which local government bodies used mostly to reimburse their treasuries for Covid-related expenses like testing and sanitation. "It's different getting cash up front," Lapsley said. "My colleagues and I think we all agree it's in the best interest of the city and county that we spend it as quickly as we can and get that money in the local economy doing some good things."

"It seems to me this might be an opportunity for the county to work with the municipalities to do some joint venture projects," he added. "Maybe the funding you're getting isn't quite enough to do that project but maybe with a little boost from the county we can do it together."

Weedman said Flat Rock is still waiting for guidance on how the money can be spent.

"We know a few things we can't do and two or three things we can do but there's a bunch beneath the surface that's just unknown," he said.