More funds on the way will help people struggling with rent, utilities in smaller, rural areas of the Triad

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With many people still struggling to pay their rent or utility bills due to COVID-19-related financial struggles, federal funding given to county and city governments to help with their assistance programs has been a lifeline for some families.

But those extra funding programs were largely given to areas where the population was over 200,000 people.

Smaller, more rural areas are now trying to figure out how to help their citizens.

In Archdale, the city’s original COVID-19 utility assistance program ended on Dec. 31, 2020.

There are no current programs to help people with their rent or utility payments.

It’s something other city and county governments are dealing with.

But there’s good news on the horizon, more funds may be headed their way.

“We just feel our citizens are in need. We want to do the best we can to gather those resources,” said John Ogburn, the city manager for Asheboro.

Those resources will soon include $900,000 from the North Carolina Department of Commerce.

Ogburn told FOX8 that the money, which they hope to receive in April, will go towards Asheboro’s first COVID-19 assistance program for families.

“To help with rental assistance, utility assistance, childcare expenses,” he said. “They may have lost their dependent insurance and their children need eyeglasses or dentistry, or they may need school supplies.”

Ogburn said people are still struggling, more than a year after the pandemic began.

“Asheboro and Randolph County is a manufacturing economy. And that’s really be hit hard by COVID. And we have a lot of tourism-based industry here, too,” he said.

Asheboro leaders used funds from the CARES Act to keep their essential workers safe.

“We used it to update all of our facilities. [For example], none of our facilities had sneeze guards,” he said.

In Davidson County, officials tried to use their allocation of the CARES Act dollars to help families in need through their own emergency assistance program.

“We spent about $55,000 of the $500,000. So, there weren’t a lot of individuals that applied and received the funding,” Assistant County Manager Jason Martin said.

He said they ended their program on Dec. 31, 2020, prior to the extension of the spending deadline.

Officials re-allocated those leftover funds because it wasn’t being used.

“At that time, there were multiple, multiple sources, where people could get assistance through nonprofits, and they were getting it from cities as well,” Martin said.

Now with the American Rescue Plan in the works, both Davidson and Asheboro leaders are trying to figure out how much money they could get and where it could go.

“There is direct allocations of funding that will go to counties…and allocation of funding that will go to cities. The cities are split up into two groups: cities that are 50,000 and up in population and those that are 50,000 and lower in population,” Martin said. “Hopefully, we’ll know a little bit more about what the money specifically can and cannot be used for.”

FOX8 is told that leaders in both areas will be meeting next week to discuss the American Rescue Plan.

In the meantime, if people are struggling to pay their rental or utility bills, it is suggested they contact their local government to see if they may qualify for any different programs.

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