© 2024 Blue Ridge Public Radio
Blue Ridge Mountains banner background
Your source for information and inspiration in Western North Carolina.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Last night at commission: $4.5 million boost for housing and emergency shelter

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meet every first and third Tuesday at 200 College Street.
BPR News
The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meet every first and third Tuesday at 200 College Street.

Last night, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners approved $4.5 million in federal funds to expand homelessness support services and affordable housing. The county also heard an update on the fall respiratory virus season and made a proclamation in honor of MANNA FoodBank Day.

$50 million later, ARPA spending wraps up 

Buncombe County finished allocating $50.7 million in federal COVID-19 recovery funding. Two years ago, the county received these funds as part of the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). This chart tracks the rolling funding allocations, which include everything from affordable housing and broadband to small business economic assistance. Annual project reports are also available on the county website.

At the meeting, the county designated $4.5 million for emergency housing and shelter. Of that, $3.8 million will go into the county’s general housing and shelter fund. Spokesperson Lillian Govus said more information on how the funds will be used are “forthcoming.”

The remaining $875,000 will go to the Homeless Initiative Advisory Committee, with the goal to increase the number of emergency beds in homeless shelters by 43 and preserve 45 existing beds.

As part of an interlocal agreement, the City of Asheville has also agreed to chip in an equal amount for a total of $1.5 million, which will be allocated to the following shelter providers:

  • The Salvation Army of Asheville & Buncombe County
  • Haywood Street Congregation 
  • Safe Shelter (fiscal agent of Grace Episcopal Church) 

The county also approved $2.2 million for the development of Ferry Road, a county-owned mixed-use housing and recreation space in South Asheville. To make these numbers work, the county reduced its COVID contingency funding by about $1 million and broadband infrastructure fund by $1.5 million.

An uptick in COVID-19 cases 

Ellis Matheson, the county’s new public health director, reported an uptick in COVID-19 hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and wastewater particles, both statewide and in Buncombe County.

Matheson said to expect FDA authorization and CDC guidance on a new round of booster shots the week of September 11. She also reminded the community to get the yearly flu vaccine in September and to follow basic prevention measures such as handwashing testing in the event of possible exposure. See the full presentation.

Other tidbits

  • MANNA FoodBank, a nonprofit that aims to eliminate hunger and food insecurity throughout Western North Carolina, was honored for 40 years of service. Commissioners declared September 5 as MANNA FoodBank Day to celebrate the organization’s legacy of providing food resources for 16 counties and the Qualla Boundary. 
  • The Early Childhood Committee shared an update on its use of $3.6 million for developing more early childhood education in Buncombe County, which included 22 funded projects ranging from behavioral health support to teacher pay.
  • A two-year pilot program to expand pre-K, helmed by Buncombe Partnership for Children, shared a year one report on its successes, challenges, and what to expect in year two. 
  • Several representatives of the worker-led coalition, Asheville Food and Beverage United, spoke during public comment to advocate for the use of tourism occupancy tax dollars to support affordable housing for service industry workers. Specifically, speakers called for the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority (BCTDA) to use its LIFT Fund to support more affordable housing projects in the Asheville area. 

Board appointments

  • The Home & Community Care Block Grant Advisory Committee added Greg Zornes and Suzanne Booth. 
  • Health & Human Services Board added Daniel Frayne. 
  • African American Heritage Commission added DeWayne McAfee. 

Every first and third Tuesday, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners meets at 200 College Street, Room 326 in downtown Asheville beginning at 5:00 p.m. See the full recording of the September 5 meeting.

Laura Hackett joined Blue Ridge Public Radio in June 2023. Originally from Florida, she moved to Asheville more than six years ago and in that time has worked as a writer, journalist, and content creator for organizations like AVLtoday, Mountain Xpress, and the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. She has a degree in creative writing from Florida Southern College, and in 2023, she completed the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY's Product Immersion for Small Newsrooms program. In her free time, she loves exploring the city by bike, testing out new restaurants, and hanging out with her dog Iroh at French Broad River Park.