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The Daily Tar Heel

Carrboro announces new financial assistance program to aid bills post-pandemic

City-carrboro-family-financial-assistance-program
Photos courtesy of Adobe Stock.

On Jan. 16, applications opened for the Town of Carrboro’s new Family Financial Assistance Program, which seeks to provide relief for housing, utility, child care and transportation costs.

Applications will be accepted through Jan. 31, and Carrboro Mayor Barbara Foushee said the funding is projected to be distributed by mid-February.

She said the Town is happy to provide for the community and those still dealing with ongoing post-pandemic needs. A town council meeting approved the program on Jan. 9.

"It was unanimous — everybody liked what they saw, just the whole idea around getting money back out in the community to those that might need it," Foushee said.

Funding for the program comes from the American Rescue Plan Act, which was passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden in 2021. ARPA provided counties across the country with over $130 billion for pandemic relief costs. Orange County allotted $6.75 million for Carrboro.

Anita Jones-McNair, Carrboro's chief race and equity officer, said $75,000 of this grant was set aside for the Town's Racial Equity Commission to develop community programs.

Jones-McNair said the Commission partnered with the Town's Housing and Community Services Department to develop the program, and that listening to community residents and nonprofit agencies helped shape the goals of the program.

“We wanted to remove the obstacles, but we still wanted to make sure that the funding was given out properly and to families in need,” she said.

Donald Hawkins, the chair of the Racial Equity Commission, said ideas for the program began to surface during meetings this past fall.

He said the program is an opportunity to show the community that the Equity Commission is actively helping residents, even though this is only its third year of existence.

“If you meet the criteria, we strongly suggest that you put an application in, because we're willing to help you,” Hawkins said. “This is a chance to let them know that the equity board is out here trying to help people.”

Applicants must be residents of Carrboro whose income falls below 200 percent of the federal poverty level — which for a family of four is $62,400. Residents can also apply if they earn 80 percent or less of the median area's income.In order to qualify, applicants must submit “proof of need,” like unpaid bills for childcare, rent, utilities or transportation needs.

Each family can receive up to $1,000 total to be applied directly to unpaid bills, instead of being sent to applicants.

Anne-Marie Vanaman, Carrboro's housing and community services director, said rent costs have increased 55 percent in the past five years for Orange County residents, and that these cost increases often impact families' budget for other expenses. She said utility costs are increasing, which may further affect people with stagnant wages.

“Having a program like this, that could catch you up on a couple of those expenses, so that you can get your feet back on the ground to try to move forward, which is very helpful, I'm happy, to be a part of that,” she said.

Applications should be submitted directly to the Orange County Department of Social Services, located on Homestead Road in Chapel Hill and Mayo Street in Hillsborough.

@carolinehorne22 | city@dailytarheel.com

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