Auditor: ‘Right now we are wrapping our heads around nothing’
etails of a grant program the Platte County Commission wants to use for small businesses affected by COVID-19 are still being determined.
The County of Platte has an agreement in place for the Platte County Economic Development Council to administer the business grant program the county commission wants to implement for businesses negatively impacted by the COVID-19 closures.
Platte County recently received $12 million through the Missouri State Treasurer’s Office. The $12 million is federal money from the CARES Act passed by Congress. The distribution amount to the county was based on population.
The amount of money to distribute through the small business grant program will be determined by the Platte County Commission. The commission will also have final say on the awarding of grants.
The grant application form is still being prepared and apparently is not yet available for public dissemination.
Thus far, the county has indicated the process will include Matt Tapp, EDC executive director, reviewing and confirming applications are full and complete. Tapp said at a meeting with county officials on Monday afternoon the next step could include a screening process by a consultant hired by the EDC to apply a score or grade to applications based on financial details provided by the applicants.
Once the applications are scored they would advance to a three-person review committee. The county commission has appointed Shane Bartee, a Weston attorney; Scott Fricker, of southern Platte County who is a member of the Platte County Board of Equalization; and Duane Soper, a banker in Platte City, to serve as the review board.
The Platte County Commission would then make the final decision on awarding of the grants.
Depth of questions asked on the application is not yet known. At a meeting of all three county commissioners, the county auditor, the county treasurer, and the executive director of the EDC on Monday afternoon a draft copy of an application form was passed around the table but had not been shared publicly as of Landmark deadline.
John Elliott, second district commissioner, at one point remarked that the “survive” type grant applications would include requests for the past 12 months of businesses banking statements and profit/loss statements.
It was remarked that wording on the application would include the phrasing that “grant fund expenditures are subject to an audit at a future date.”
The county has agreed to pay the EDC for administrative fees and expenses in regard to administering the program. Per an agreement, the county will pay the EDC at a rate of $85 per hour for the executive director’s time; $50 per hour for the EDC business and member outreach manager’s time; $40 hour for the EDC marketing and public relations manager’s time; and $15 per hour for general business, material and equipment. Those fees can be paid with the CARES money, county officials said.
In addition, the EDC will be paid for administrative support services as needed that are necessary to complete responsibilities assigned to the EDC, per the agreement. The consultant handling a screening process would fall into this category, for instance.
At the time the county was notified by the state treasurer of the $12 million headed its direction in CARES money, the state treasurer’s office asked Ron Schieber, presiding commissioner, to pass $6 million on to the City of Kansas City. That request was made due to the fact City of Kansas City residents make up about 50 percent of Platte County’s population.
So far there has been no public intent shown by the county commission to forward on the $6 million to Kansas City. And smaller municipalities in the county, led by Platte Woods Mayor John Smedley, have indicated their desire to be on the receiving end of some grant money that they can put to use for COVID related expenses.
Smedley’s official request that “something proportional” be allocated to the various cities for past and future COVID related expenses was heard at the Monday morning meeting of the county commission. The commissioners made no verbal commitment.
Schieber said he believes the vast majority of the $12 million should go to the business grant program the county is establishing. The county will depend on local chambers of commerce and economic development councils to help get the word out about the program and help make the applications available.
Kevin Robinson, county auditor, has stressed the need for specifics in all aspects of the program to meet audit requirements, and pointed out that in addition to a county review, state and federal audits of the various uses of funds and programs connected with the CARES money are possible.
“Right now we are wrapping our heads around nothing,” Robinson said at the close of a Monday afternoon work session that included the auditor, the three county commissioners, Platte County Treasurer Rob Willard and Platte County Clerk Nancy Armstrong.
The commission order establishing the business grant program says the CARES ACT allows that economic support may include “the provision of grants to small businesses to reimburse the costs of business interruption caused by required closures. Governments have discretion to determine what payments are necessary.”
It further states that “a program that is aimed at assisting small businesses with the costs of business interruption caused by required closure” may be considered an eligible expenditure under the CARES Act.
The commission’s order also states “it is in the best interests of the people of Platte County to establish and implement a program using the funds provided under the CARES Act to assist small businesses in Platte County with the costs of business interruption caused by the closure of those businesses pursuant to the various orders entered by the Platte County Health Department and the Kansas City Health Department as a response to the COVID-19 public health emergency.”