The first nonprofit group approved Tuesday for ARPA by Laurens County Council was the Laurens County Memorial Home, a Medicaid-funded living facility hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The council donated $250,000 to the house in a cash payout from ARPA at a called meeting (May 3). Of the $13 million earmarked for Laurens County, the council set aside $8 million for its own projects, $2.5 million for nonprofits and $2.5 million for infrastructure. The board has already spent a portion of employee bonuses for working during the deadly pandemic (a use allowed by federal guidelines; board members and volunteer firefighters are not eligible).
For infrastructure, the council gave $600,000 to the Laurens CPW, $600,000 to Presbyterian College (for broadband), and $1.3 million to the Laurens County Water and Sewer Commission to use at its discretion. The LCWSC has a long list of future projects approved in its 20-year strategic plan.
It took the board about an hour and a half for each member to come up with “favorites” from a list of 34 nonprofits. Preference was given to groups who had not received other Covid relief money. In total, the nonprofit organizations proposed projects for funding of more than $9 million. No limit was imposed by the county on the amount that could be tendered – although the county could not spend this money on anything outside of ARPA guidelines.
ARPA is the Biden administration’s American Relief Plan Act, approved by a majority in Congress.
Board members had a lively discussion about the projects.
Council member Diane Anderson said the Memorial Home was an ongoing county concern due to financial management and a low census. She said it’s “a business” like other assisted living facilities and 28 residents live there. But six board members felt the Laurens Memorial Home for the Aged, Inc. deserved the full amount it asked for.
Council members have withdrawn from votes involving nonprofit groups in which they have a vested interest.
Second on the approval list was the Lakelands YMCA, Laurens, which received $500,000 of a $1.9 million request. The Clinton Y was also approved, unanimously, for $500,000, on the recommendation of board member David Tribble. A park at Fountain Inn has been approved for $75,000 of a $1.5 million budget – the park is also receiving $53,000 of sales tax money from capital projects, approved by a majority of voters in Laurens County on November 3, 2020.
The board was reluctant to consider brick-and-mortar projects and rent payments — instead focusing on human needs — but a majority approved $200,000 for a Post 25 American Legion building in Laurens, a location that , according to the promoters, will be open to all veterans.
Presbyterian College received a second $60,000 broadband credit at this funding level, and Thornwell at Clinton received $150,000 for its at-risk youth and family programs.
The Laurens Rotary Club received $6,000 in start-up funds to start a $75,000 literacy program.
United Ministries of Clinton received a funding commitment of $75,000. Several other nonprofits received lesser funding – in total, 26 of the 34 submitted projects received some level of funding commitment.
After the vote on infrastructure projects, which saw PC receive its second largest allocation of money, Anderson insisted that the county commit the money to a much larger broadband improvement project than just on the campus of South Broad St., Clinton.
Council chairman Brown Patterson said that with the remaining money (county projects), any viable broadband project would receive careful consideration from the council.