Council OKs more than $146K in federal grants | Local News


The City Council during the June 28 council regular meeting signed off on what is going to be a total of $146,565 in federal grants for a list of faith-based and nonprofit organizations to help people who need a helping hand.

Interim Community and Business Development Director Peter Varney presented the details about funding applications to the municipality during a June 14 council work session.

Those details recommended Community Development Block Grant funding to the following in the following amounts for the following purposes:

  • Rocky Mount-Edgecombe Community Development Corp., $30,000 for the CDC’s housing counseling center. The center provides pre-purchase counseling, homebuyer education, foreclosure prevention counseling and credit/money management workshops.
  • The Buck Leonard Association for Sports and Human Enrichment, $21,000 for two stages of the Mitchell House Construction Trade Project. The project provides hands-on skills development in construction and trades.
  • Ripple Effects Group, $19,163 for Project Bridge. The project provides case management, transitional housing, financial literacy training and mental health counseling.
  • United Community Ministries, $7,000 for the Bassett Center. The center provides a transitional housing program for homeless families with children in the Twin Counties.

Rocky Mount-Edgecombe Community Development Corp. seeks to raise the levels of area residents and provide housing and business opportunities for the low-income and minority population in the area.

The Buck Leonard Association for Sports and Human Enrichment seeks to engage and empower neighbors with programming and resources to promote the education, health and well-being of children and the community.

Leonard, who was born in Rocky Mount, starred in the baseball leagues comprised of African American teams and in 1972 was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Leonard died in 1997 at age 90.

Ripple Effects is a faith-based empowerment center.

United Community Ministries seeks to bring hope to hungry and homeless people and families.

During the June 14 city council work session, Varney reminded the council of the panel on May 10 having approved submitting the annual action plan to the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development for Community Development Block Grant funds.

CDBG funds assist urban, suburban and rural communities to improve housing and living conditions and expand economic opportunities for low- and moderate-income people.

Varney on June 14 told the council that $514,419 was expected to be received from HUD for the fiscal year 2021-22 and that HUD requires 15 percent of the total — in this case, $77,163 — to be made available locally for public services.

The list of eligible activities associated with those services includes crime prevention, day care, employment services, health services, homelessness prevention, housing counseling, recreational services and other human services that would lessen poverty.

The providers of such services need to be either a nonprofit, a governmental agency or a faith-based organization and they have to be able to serve neighborhoods or households within the Rocky Mount city limits. They must have at least three years of experience in assisting low- and moderate-income households or neighborhoods, ensure the confidentiality of records of program participants and comply with any other municipal contract requirements.

Varney in documents told the council the city also has received notice from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that the HOME program, via the American Rescue Plan, is allocating nearly $1.47 million to the Down East HOME Consortium.

The consortium is a way for local governments in the Twin Counties to collectively obtain HUD funding to rehabilitate houses.

The American Rescue Plan was successfully advocated by the Biden White House to provide roughly $1.9 trillion in additional relief to deal with the continued effect of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy.

HOME is the largest federal block grant to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households.

Varney told the city council on June 14 that he anticipates the funding via the American Rescue Plan will take anywhere from 90 to 120 days to be processed.

Varney also told the council the American Rescue Plan will provide more funding for Ripple Effects and for a separate United Community Ministries program and funding for another organization that applied for CDBG funding, the Mercer Foundation.

The details the council were presented on June 14 included recommending American Rescue Plan funding to the following in the following amounts for the following purposes:

  • United Community Ministries, $30,000 for the organization’s community shelter. That shelter helps transition homeless people into self-sufficiency.
  • The Mercer Foundation, $28,425 for the organization’s homelessness prevention and financial assistance program. The program provides transitional housing and financial assistance to veterans and homeless people.
  • Ripple Effects, $10,977 for Project Bridge in addition to the $19,163 in CDBG funding.

Councilman Lige Daughtridge wanted to know more about the Mercer Foundation.

Varney said that the Mercer Foundation provides homelessness prevention services, mainly for military veterans.

Councilman Reuben Blackwell said that the Mercer Foundation maintains a group home for veterans and provides monthly food distribution at the Thornes Chapel Missionary Baptist church. Blackwell also noted that the Mercer Foundation’s leader, James Mercer, is enshrined in the Twin County Hall of Fame.

“So they’re a good organization — and the niche has been veteran services,” Blackwell said.

Varney said the Mercer Foundation was the first such applicant he knew of that provides services for veterans.

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