Douglas County commissioners to hear plans for virus relief grants to local businesses
photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World File Photo
Local organizations in charge of millions of dollars in coronavirus relief funding will soon lay out their plans on how they will award the funds to Douglas County businesses.
The Douglas County Commission on Wednesday will discuss funding plans from local “umbrella” organizations that are in charge of grant programs the commissioners created last month. The programs are part of the county’s spending plan for its $24.9 million allotment of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, also known as CARES.
Prior to finalizing the spending plan last month, the commissioners reworked language in the economic recovery portion to make sure funds to certain umbrella organizations would be provided as new grants that county businesses could still apply for. By creating the grants to be provided later, some county businesses were given more time to apply and receive funding to help respond to the ongoing pandemic. However, the funds must be spent by the end of the year.
The three business-related umbrella organizations — Downtown Lawrence Inc., Lawrence Restaurant Association and Explore Lawrence — have provided outlines of each of their programs that will help the county’s retail and hospitality industries, according to a memo provided to the commissioners.
The Lawrence Restaurant Association, which will award up to $1.6 million, plans to provide grants for reimbursement of personal protective equipment, sanitation, public health measures and business interruption expenses. The organization plans to provide grants based on the size of the business, which will be dictated by the amount of employees the business had from March 1 to the time of the application. The funds will be available to restaurants, bars, coffee shops, bakeries, event spaces and hotels with full-service restaurants.
Downtown Lawrence Inc., which will award $450,000, plans to provide similar grants to county businesses. The organization said it would focus on awarding the grants to locally owned retail and service businesses in Douglas County. But the amount of funding available to each business will depend on the number of applicants.
Explore Lawrence, which has $200,000 to offer, proposed providing $21,000 to each county hotel that remained open during the pandemic and $10,000 to hotels that closed for a time but have reopened. The organization also plans to award reimbursements to hotels for personal protective equipment, cleaning supplies and labor expenses related to enhanced cleaning and training.
A fourth organization, Child Care Aware of Eastern Kansas, also provided a plan for a grant program related to childcare in the county, according to the memo. Its program plans to offer a $200 grant and a $50-a-month grant to licensed childcare organizations for remote learning and high-speed internet access, respectively.
The purpose of the childcare grant program is to help childcare facilities provide alternative learning sites to school-aged children. The grant program has a total of $18,000 to award, according to the memo.
In other business, the commissioners will consider approving a site plan for the construction of a 35,000-square-foot structure at the southeast corner of North 1900 Road and East 1450 Road, which is also known as U.S. Highway 24. The structure would be an agriculture shop and office structure for Sod Shop, a sod and stone business.
The commissioners previously considered the site plan last month, but deferred the item to give county staff time to study water drainage in the area, which was a concern brought up by neighbors and the Douglas County Kaw Drainage District.
The commissioners will also consider awarding an agritourism registration to a 30-acre property at 292 North 2100 Road, Lecompton. The farm on the property — Burning Barrel, LLC — plans to create a seasonal event space that includes offering farm-to-table meals.
The County Commission will meet Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. for a regular business meeting. The meeting will be open to the walk-in public at the county courthouse, 1100 Massachusetts St., but a link for the public to watch live online is available on the county’s website, douglascountyks.org. Residents may also call in and listen by phone by dialing 1-312-626-6799 and entering meeting ID 976-1914-9582.
Full audio from the meeting will continue to be posted on the county’s website, as usual. The meeting’s full agenda may also be found on the county’s website.
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