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Kansas City, Missouri, Unveils $2.5 Million In Coronavirus Relief For Clay County Businesses And Low-Income Households

062320_AOH_Lucas press conference.jpg
Aviva Okeson-Haberman
Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said the city isn't spending all of the federal CARES Act funding received from Clay County immediately. "We're trying to be smart with it, come up with good programs," Lucas said at a press conference Tuesday, June 23.

Most of the money will go towards supporting small businesses in Clay County, in the form of grants of up to $50,000 each.

Kansas City residents and small business owners in Clay County who are struggling with the coronavirus’ economic toll will be eligible for some financial relief under a plan unveiled by the mayor and city councilmembers Tuesday.

The proposal calls for $1.5 million in grants for small businesses and $1 million to the Northland Neighborhoods, Inc. for assistance to low-income households.

The ordinance, which will need approval from the Kansas City Council, is the first announcement for how the city plans to spend parts of the roughly $11.7 million in federal coronavirus relief funding it got from Clay County.

“It is important and vital for us to get dollars in the hands of the people in Clay County who need it the most,” Kansas City Councilwoman Heather Hall said at a press conference Tuesday. “And Councilman [Kevin] O'Neill and I have been talking to so many people who have said, ‘We need help. We need assistance and we need it now.’”

The Kansas City Economic Development Corporation will be in charge of awarding grants up to $50,000 for businesses with 75 or fewer employees. Preference would be given to businesses that missed out on federal or state COVID-19 assistance.

The funding for Northland Neighborhoods, Inc. will go toward food assistance and help with rent, mortgage and utility payments. It can also be used for rapid rehousing.

“We have seen a drastic increase in the phone calls that are coming in, of people that are in desperate trouble,” Northland Neighborhoods, Inc. Chief Executive Officer Deb Hermann said.

Tuesday’s announcement comes a week after the Clay County Commission threatened in a letter sent to the mayor to claw-back any funds Kansas City spends on administrative expenses outside the county.

Clay County Commissioner Jerry Nolte voted against sending the letter and told KCUR he supports the focus on small business assistance. Nolte said he wants to see future coronavirus relief spending include increased testing for nursing home residents. Two nursing homes in the county are experiencing outbreaks with one care center accounting for 11% of all COVID-19 cases in the county.

“That is a vulnerable population. That is the population that lives most communally and that’s where we’ve seen recent outbreaks,” Nolte said.

The $2.5 million spending plan accounts for roughly a fifth of funding the city received from Clay County. Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas said future spending plans will likely include the health department, the fire department and the police department. Lucas also said the city may give more money to the business relief program down the road.

“We're not spending all the money immediately,” Lucas said. “We're trying to be smart with it, come up with good programs.”

Lucas said he’s not sure if the city will release the names of businesses that are awarded grants.

“I generally favor releasing names of anything that's relating to government,” Lucas said. “However, we'll make sure that we're following all the necessary rules.”

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