After some discussion Wednesday, Sedgwick County commissioners have voted to table consideration of funding to help bars and nightclubs that have had to temporarily close because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Commissioner Michael O’Donnell had proposed using up to $5 million in coronavirus relief funds to provide help for businesses and their employees who have been impacted by a health order that is in effect through August 21st.
The county’s chief financial officer, Lindsay Poe-Rousseau, told commissioners that any program developed by the county could not duplicate any other state or federal programs, and she proposed coming back with a plan on August 12th on what a relief program would look like. She pointed out that the county could spend some relief dollars but then find out later through an audit that it was not an appropriate use, and the county would then have to pay the money back. Poe-Rousseau also said that targeted assistance like this can set a precedent for other businesses if coronavirus-related hardships continue.
Commissioner Jim Howell raised a question of fairness, saying he doesn’t think the county should single out certain types of businesses for relief and not provide money to others. He said with the funding the county is receiving, there isn’t enough money to do all of the things the county needs to do, and he feels the money should be used to combat the spread of coronavirus in the community.
Howell moved to table discussion on the relief funding, and it was approved on a 3-2 vote. Commissioners Howell, David Dennis and Lacey Cruse voted to table the issue and the no votes were from O’Donnell and commission chairman Pete Meitzner.