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'Shame On Us' — Kansas City, Missouri, Has Yet To Distribute Any Emergency Small Business Loans During Pandemic

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KCUR 89.3
Some city council members were surprised to learn Thursday that no loans have been administered yet.

The City Council approved $500,000 in March, but the Economic Development Corporation says contract negotiations with city staff have stalled.

Despite passing a $500,000 emergency relief package for small businesses nearly a month ago, Kansas City has yet to start the process of distributing loans.

The Economic Development Corporation, which was selected to distribute the loans, says it was surprised by a contract it received from the city this week that suggested the EDC would have to come up with additional money in order to leverage city dollars for the program.

The delay took several councilmembers — and the mayor — by surprise. Councilwoman Heather Hall said that money should have been distributed to struggling businesses weeks ago.

“I don’t want to lose my temper here but I’m a little crazed by the fact that that here the local government has taken three and a half weeks to even just to talk about this,” Hall said. “Shame on us.”

She pointed out the city was moving slower than the federal government, which has already administered small business loans since the pandemic started totaling hundreds of billions of dollars.

Councilman Lee Barnes said it was not the intent of the council for the EDC to have to leverage the city’s money. Instead, he said, the ordinance passed March 26 was designed to get the money to the EDC, in full, as soon as possible.

City staff told the council during its business session Thursday afternoon they had been working with the EDC.

The mayor said he would set a meeting with city staff, acting city manager Ernest Rouse, and the EDC for Friday and asked that a plan of action be prepared so the EDC can begin the application process within the coming days.

“Tell Mr. Rouse to bring his signature pen for the check,” Councilwoman Melissa Robinson said. “Cut the check.”

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