By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
County provides ARPA update; commissioners and citizens push back
County - LOCAL

NEWTON COUNTY – An update on ARPA funding was given at the Dec. 5 Board of Commissioners meeting, but with some push back from those in attendance.

County manager Harold Cooper provided some in-depth statistics during his county manager’s report on how and where ARPA funds have been dispersed.

First discussed was the iParamaterics financial report, a consulting firm that has assisted the county with the ARPA process.

According to a slideshow presentation presented by Cooper, the partnership with iParametrics has been used to “distribute aid in previously approved grant programs such as ERAP and senior home repair as well as serving as a consultant to write grants.”

A total of $818,697 has been paid to iParametrics through ARPA funding across all Newton County programs, as part of this consulting.

Next, Cooper discussed the update on senior home repairs, which have been the most inquired upon amongst the ARPA funds, with a total of 854 applicants countywide.

Cooper said that because the inquiries have been so high, the turnarounds in providing funding have been longer than expected.

It was noted that if each applicant were to be funded, the funding needed would be approximately $25 million – far off from the $5 million that has been budgeted.

But with applications now closed, Cooper was able to provide data for each district.

District 1: 35/180 approved (19%); $313,184.14 released out of $576,399.85 awarded.

District 2: 22/114 approved (19%); $182,962.86 released out of $342,132.15 awarded.

District 3: 20/100 approved (20%); $196,077.41 released out of $309,916.14 awarded.

District 4: 47/280 approved (32%); $410,539.08 released out of $849,798.82 awarded.

District 5: 32/180 approved (18%); $338,856.81 released out of $636,516.65 awarded.

The presentation also showed that “approximately 55 percent of applicants were noted as below the 50 percent area median income (AMI). It was also noted that those in the 80 percent AMI range were “unlikely” to receive funding. 

Cooper says despite the trials and tribulations, that the process has been a successful one.

“There have been ebbs and flows, highs and lows – we can accept that – but this process has been fluid and for the most part successful,” Cooper said.

Commissioners, Citizens Comment

While Cooper’s tone showed a level of optimism – many did not share the same feelings.

Those included commissioners J.C. Henderson and Alana Sanders, who both spoke with concern regarding the ARPA funds.

Henderson requested a list of those who have received funding so that he could view the results himself. He also urged Cooper to provide a better fix to how ARPA funds are being dispersed. 

“Let us stop picking and choosing which peoples houses we’re gonna fix,” Henderson said. “I know a few [citizens] who they didn’t [sic] fix out who live in the community.”

Sanders said that there is frustration amongst the citizens, with many stating the county has failed to communicate with them.

“After church I had a swamp of seniors come up to me about their gripes and frustration about this program and that’s now how it’s supposed to be,” Sanders said. “We should not be frustrating our seniors at this day and age and they’re saying they’re not getting calls back. That should not be happening.”

Sanders said that while she was initially excited about providing a service to the residents of Newton County, that she did not expect all of the issues that came with this process. She additionally urged the county to take “accountability and responsibility of what’s happening.”

Some of those disgruntled citizens spoke during the citizen comments portion of the meeting.

Carlitta Reed said that she had applied for a small business grant but she was denied, “despite doing everything right.”

Joseph Reed said that his business grant was denied due to the amount of money he made. He wanted to know what the monetary requirements were to receive funding and asked the board to provide those.

Geraldine Strong stated that she was supposed to receive a roof repair on her home, but that the contractor who was in charge of doing so had left the ARPA program.

“Everyone that I called [the contractors] no one wants to come because they said that they’re no longer with the program. So what must I do?,” Strong asked.

Cynthia Butler stated that she was supposed to have a hot water heater put in her home but because the county did not pay the contractor, the process has halted. Butler said she was the recipient of multiple different repairs from this program coming from multiple different vendors, but that inspections have not been done. She opted to field a call to those vendors.

“I got on the phone today and called all the vendors that have done work at my home to see if they’ve been paid – only one has been paid,” Butler said. “I need someone to come inspect their work so these people can get their check.”

Denise Williams said that senior citizens in the county communicate with each other and that a standard operating procedure is necessary to accommodate those in need.

“Newton County is a close-knit community – everybody knows everybody, so there’s knowing that you’re going to do that won’t be repeated,” Williams said. “We need a standard operation on how to get these seniors what they need.”