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Sunday, May 19, 2024

New Hanover, Wilmington win big on American Rescue Plan with $71m in expected stimulus funds

Customers order from a menu at Wrightsville Beach’s South Beach Grill in May after Governor Cooper reopened restaurants at 50% capacity, over three months after he shut down all dine-in options at restaurants and bars across the state due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (Port City Daily/Mark Darrough)

SOUTHEASTERN N.C. — Counties, cities, and towns of the Cape Fear region are expected to receive just over $153 million in federal funds from the recently signed American Rescue Plan. New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington are earmarked for $45.5 million and $25.9 million, respectively. 

The information came to light a day before President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 million stimulus bill Thursday afternoon, after a prolonged period of debate in the Senate earlier this month.

In an email sent Wednesday by Allen Serkin, executive director of the Cape Fear Council of Governments, he outlined the funds that are expected to go to governments across the region. The largest recipients are New Hanover County, followed by Brunswick County ($27.7m), Wilmington, Pender County ($12.2m), Columbus County ($15.4m), Leland ($6.9m), Oak Island ($2.45m), Carolina Beach ($1.9m), Boiling Spring Lakes ($1.84m) St. James ($1.83m), Carolina Shores ($1.36), Whiteville ($1.55m), Shallotte ($1.27), Tabor City ($1.22), and Burgaw  ($1.21m). 

Serkin noted the information was provided to Shallotte Mayor Walt Eccard by the National League of Cities, an advocacy group that represents cities, towns, and villages throughout the U.S.

Citing the CFCG’s requirement to provide a 10-day notice for a member meeting, he was looking to schedule a remote meeting on Monday, March 22 at 11 a.m. or the following day at the same time.

On Friday evening, Serkin said further evaluations need to be made, but he is hopeful the funds “will be able to provide some much needed assistance to the people of the region.”

Serkin said the largest area of improvement that he expects the region to fuse the funds for will likely be infrastructure projects.

“It appears to have the least eligibility concerns and there are always needs,” Serkin said.

In Carolina Beach, Councilman Steve Shuttleworth said how the town uses the funds will depend on coming decisions by council, based on input and requests from town management. But it will likely go toward a backlog of infrastructure projects, including a completion of the Carolina Beach Lake dredging project, revamping old water and sewer infrastructure, beach nourishment, and repaving “large sections of road throughout the town,” according to Shuttleworth. 

“We’ve been reluctant to do that until we put in the water and sewer infrastructure,” he said.

Shuttleworth said the town faces substantial road work beyond what it receives from the state through the Powell Bill annually. Any decisions on how the ARP funds will be used depends on guidance from the federal government on any restrictions attached to the funds.

At this point we’re waiting for confirmation; we’re waiting for the schedule of disbursement. It’s our understanding that it will be over a two-year period,” Shuttleworth said.

Carolina Beach survives economically on tourism revenues. Shuttleworth said he us unsure if the money will be used to offset huge losses in tourism dollars that the town experienced throughout 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic shutdowns. It all depends on federal restrictions. 

“That’s going to be something that will be up to the manager, and to some degree, it’s going to be up to who tells us what we can use what for. But they’re going to give us restrictions,” he emphasized.

Elsewhere across the region, officials that could be reached Friday afternoon and evening were mum on specifics of how local governments are planning to use the substantial influx of federal dollars.

New Hanover County spokesperson Jessica Loeper said the county has established a team to begin working on a framework and plan for the funds.

“But there is nothing to report at this time. Once a plan is put together, it will be shared with the Board of Commissioners and the public,” she said.

Pender County Manager Chad McEwen said any plans will be determined at a later date.

“Reviewing eligible expenses now,” he sent via text. “We will explore all options.”

In his email to various leaders throughout the region, Serkin said Cape Fear Council of Governments Chairman Mike Forte requested a special meeting to discuss the $153 million in funds expected to enter the regional governments’ coffers. 

“The purpose of the meeting will be to discuss how best to provide a forum for member jurisdictions to share ideas and plans for spending their share of funds, as well as opportunities for collaborative approaches,” he wrote.

Shuttleworth said Carolina Beach is excited about the expected $1.9 million headed its way.

“We’re grateful that the state was able to advocate what they were able to advocate, and it’s flowing through to municipalities,” he said. “And we’re excited about coming out of the Covid pandemic shutdown and hoping that we get better and better. The biggest thing we need to do is figure out beach nourishment monies; that’s where we need help.”

Estimated funding allocations 

New Hanover County

  • New Hanover County: $45,474,594
  • Wilmington: $25,934,889
  • Carolina Beach: $1,872,592
  • Wrightsville Beach: $747,983
  • New Hanover County: $45,474,594
  • Kure Beach: $613,955
  • Total New Hanover County: $74,644,013

Brunswick County

  • Brunswick County: $27,699,060
  • Leland: $6,889,873
  • Oak Island: $2,454,064
  • Boiling Spring Lakes: $1,839,816
  • St. James: $1,828,403
  • Carolina Shores: $1,363,401
  • Shallotte: $1,273,269
  • Sunset Beach: $1,181,380
  • Sunset Beach: $1,181,380
  • Southport: $1,160,603
  • Navassa: $674,824
  • Calabash: $664,289
  • Belville: $615,418
  • City of Northwest: $229,721
  • Ocean Isle: $194,604
  • Holden Beach: $194,312
  • Caswell Beach: $126,127
  • Sandy Creek: $88,962
  • Bald Head Island: $53,260
  • Bolivia: $45,066
  • BRUNSWICK TOTAL: $48,750,865

Pender County

  • Pender County: $12,230,099
  • Burgaw: $1,214,156
  • Wallace: $1,130,461
  • Surf City: $722,524
  • Topsail Beach: $124,957
  • St. Helena: $124,079
  • Watha*: $70,233
  • PENDER TOTAL: $15, 720,687

*Portion for town in Pender County

Columbus County

  • Columbus County: $10,765,435
  • Whiteville: $1,550,690
  • Tabor City: $1,218,253
  • Chadbourn: $500,704
  • Town of Lake Waccamaw: $409,693
  • Brunswick: $273,031
  • Fair Bluff: $257,814
  • Bolton: $187,581
  • Sandyfield: $122,323
  • Cerro Gordo: $57,064
  • Boardman: $44,481
  • BRUNSWICK TOTAL: $15,387,070

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