HUNTERSVILLE, N.C. — The White House hails the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 as "the foundation for a strong, equitable recovery," but a WCNC Charlotte analysis of federal data found the program shorted one of Charlotte's largest suburbs.
U.S. Department of the Treasury records show Huntersville, home to more than 58,000 people, is set to receive $4.8 million in American Rescue Plan money. Data shows 15 other cities and towns in the Carolinas with smaller populations will receive more than Huntersville.
A WCNC Charlotte analysis shows the town is set to receive just under $83 per person, which is among the lowest per capita in North Carolina and South Carolina, well below the $196 per person average.
"It was a shock for us, for sure," Huntersville Assistant to the Manager Bobby Williams said.
The once-in-a-lifetime federal emergency funding will help shape the future of towns and cities post-pandemic, but Williams said Huntersville feels slighted. After all, he said a Congressional report first estimated the town would receive roughly $17 million.
"You never want to count your chickens before they hatch and until the money's in the bank, but I think we were all hopeful that we would get close to that sum to be able to invest in our community and help in the recovery," Williams said. "We were led to believe that's what we were getting and (that was) not the case when we saw it come out."
Huntersville is among 142 cities across the country considered metros by the Treasury Department. Huntersville didn't ask for that new label, which resulted in the government using a 1974 community needs formula to calculate how much the town would receive. The formula considers poverty, population, housing overcrowding and age of housing.
"It was created in the 70s to address conditions in the 70s and, you know, a lot has changed," Williams said. "We're the ones that seem to be losing the most money."
The Town of Apex has also questioned the costly unsolicited federal distinction.
"Treasury's interpretation penalizes our communities based on our size, treating us differently than in the past..." the mayors of Huntersville and Apex wrote in a letter to state lawmakers. "...These reductions of funding will cause our towns to receive less than half of ARPA funding than our neighboring towns with lower populations – upwards of $9-11 million – regardless of socio-economic conditions."
Huntersville Mayor John Aneralla and Apex Mayor Jacques Gilbert recently visited Raleigh to lobby for support.
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"We knew right away that was a problem for Apex and for Huntersville," said Natasha Marcus, a Democrat who represents North Carolina's 41st District. "It's very important that they get their fair share."
Lawmakers, including those at the state level and U.S. Rep. Alma Adams, D-N.C., joined the effort. Ultimately, Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, redirected some of North Carolina's American Rescue Plan allotment in his proposed budget, earmarking $12 million each for Apex and Huntersville.
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"I give the governor's staff and the governor himself a lot of credit for putting politics aside and saying, 'We need to make sure that these two cities get the funding that they need,'" Marcus said.
Marcus said there's bipartisan support. Town officials are hopeful.
"We have been working with our Federal and State delegation to get this corrected," Huntersville Town Manager Anthony Roberts said.
Once the money arrives, the town can use it for a variety of things to meet local needs, including support for families, small businesses, essential workers and infrastructure. However, Huntersville has not made spending plans yet.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury maintains the agency followed the law written by Congress in determining how much cities and towns would receive.