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Broadband access Broadband funding Buncombe COVID 19 Local Fiscal Recovery Funding

Improving Broadband Access in Buncombe

Increasing Vaccinations, Improving Broadband Access, & Supporting Affordable Housing for the Unsheltered: Local Fiscal Recovery Fund Addresses Pandemic, Systemic Needs for Buncombe

Buncombe County is poised to make significant strides in expanding broadband accessibility, supporting affordable housing for the unsheltered, and increasing access to early childhood education, all while continuing to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and increase vaccination rates across the County. On Aug. 31, the Board of Commissioners approved the initial slate of $11.3 million for County investment projects that meet community needs head-on. The Buncombe County Commissioners envision this as the first in a series of rounds of COVID Recovery Funding projects will help with short- and long-term goals while addressing ongoing pandemic-related needs across Buncombe County.

These vital projects are drawing from some of the $50 million in federal funding aimed at addressing primary and peripheral issues caused by the COVID-19 global pandemic. In deciding which projects to immediately prioritize, Commissioners evaluated nearly 150 project proposals along with more than 7,600 survey responses from the public.

Commission Chair Brownie Newman says these projects not only address issues caused by the pandemic, but also help the County gain significant ground on the 2025 Strategic Plan: “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meaningfully and intentionally move the needle on multiple projects of community interest. We believe that this is a strong first step in a series of funding rounds that will have lasting impact by addressing issues like homelessness, internet access, and early childhood education. The Commission evaluated many strong proposals and fully anticipates funding additional projects under a rolling award process.”

The following are a few highlights of the projects Commissioners approved as part of the $11.4 million on the Tuesday, Aug. 31 agenda:

  • $1,543,714 for COVID-19 support, including vaccinations.
  • $500,000 for small business assistance via One Buncombe small business grants.
  • $300,000 for small business assistance through the Center for Agricultural and Food Entrepreneurship.
  • $4,000,000 to expand broadband infrastructure in unserved areas.
  • $419,309 for early education to be facilitated by the Verner Center for Early Learning.
  • An additional $1,000,000 to help provide housing for the homeless via Homeward Bound WNC. This adds to the $2,000,000 that was approved by Commissioners on Aug. 3.

County Commissioners will continue working on the next round of Local Fiscal Recovery Funding using the same methodology while being intentional about public input, equity, and identifying projects that further our Buncombe 2025 Strategic Plan Goals.

If you or anyone you know are struggling to pay your rent, mortgage, or utilities, Buncombe County’s COVID Housing Assistance Program may be able to help. Click here for more information.

Follow along at Buncombe County’s COVID recovery funding

I am super excited that the county is planning to invest $4 million of our National Recovery Fund resources towards this great project, as we discussed and voted on at our Commission meeting.

As I understand it, our $4 million investment has the potential to help leverage an additional $4 million from North Carolina and around $2 million in private sector funding for a total project of $10 million.

This will be a significant step forward for our community.

I’m grateful for your leadership on these efforts.

Brownie Newman, Buncombe County Commissioner email to Dr William Sederburg, Chair of the WNC Broadband Project