Wilmington awarding $700K in American Rescue Plan funds to nonprofits, arts groups

The City of Wilmington is opening up grant applications this fall to disperse $500,000 to nonprofits and $200,000 to art groups. (Port City Daily/Mark Darrough)

WILMINGTON –– The City of Wilmington is opening up grant applications to disperse $700,000 of its $26-million American Rescue Plan Act funds to nonprofit organizations.

Of the allocation, $200,000 will benefit arts groups specifically. Rhonda Bellamy, executive director of the Arts Council of Wilmington, said the selection process will prioritize organizations assisting underserved communities.

The funds are intended to provide a much-needed boost to nonprofits that experienced a turbulent last year-and-a-half, during which the need in the community outpaced donations. In-person fundraising opportunities were also limited due to health precautions.


“Like everyone, non-profits have been challenged throughout the pandemic, but they have also been one of our greatest resources,” Mayor Bill Saffo stated in a city press release, announcing the funding commitment. “Non-profits have been and continue to be on the frontlines and on the ground helping our community recover and become more resilient. This money will go toward those in need right here in Wilmington and strengthen our community going forward.”

CEO of the United Way of the Cape Fear Area, Tommy Taylor, said in the release nonprofits focused on health, education and financial stability have endured the greatest hits since Covid-19 began.

“We need them more now than we have needed them in a very long time,” Taylor added.

The grants will range from $10,000 to $50,000. The United Way and the Arts Council are overseeing the distribution of the money, expected to be done expediently and equitably.

Nonprofits can submit on United Way’s site through the end of the month. Arts groups can apply on the arts council website in October.

According to the release, awards will be cross-checked to avoid repeat funding. A committee of appointed community members and city officials will review the applications.

“We’ve asked community leaders to be the decision makers on where these dollars will go,” Saffo said. “City staff will be ready to help in any way, and Council members will serve in various committees that will help make the decisions; but ultimately, these funds will be driven by the perspective of community leaders and ensures the money will be distributed quickly and equitably.”

According to the city’s release, “Awards will be granted to non-profits for programs that are in accordance with U.S. Treasury ARPA guidance as allowed by NC General Statutes and reporting requirements will be placed upon the recipients.”

This $700,000 investment adds to the $2.5 million city council approved in the fiscal year 2022 budget as a biennial commitment to local nonprofits.

Saffo said the financial commitment reflects council’s belief that “social services fall beyond the scope of city government.”

“We have a shared responsibility to invest in the valuable work of local non-profits in support of the community’s well-being,” the mayor said.

The $1.9 trillion ARP Act was signed into law by President Joe Biden in March. Over two years, the City of Wilmington is expected to receive approximately $26 million of the funding. The first $13 million was deposited earlier this year and the second tranche is arriving in 2022.

The city also contributed $2 million to a $4.5-million business assistance grant program in partnership with New Hanover County. The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce was in charge of selecting awardees through a lottery system and notifying recipients of their prizes this past summer. Grants benefited businesses in the retail, service, leisure, hospitality, and childcare sector.

A total of $9 million of the ARP funds is planned to go toward economic and community assistance before 2024. The city is conserving $12.26 for its continued response to the ongoing pandemic and is allotting the remaining $4.6 to city infrastructure projects.


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