o we’re finally getting more details now on the small business grant program the Platte County Commission intends to implement with a large portion of the $12 million in federal CARES money it has received for COVID-19 relief. See a story with some of the details elsewhere in this issue of The Landmark.
The rules and regulations on the county commission’s grant program have been tightened up significantly in recent weeks, so let’s give the commission credit for that. There are some things that still are cause for concern, however, which we’ll get to in a moment, but first let’s pause for a moment of praise to the commission for tightening up the program’s infrastructure. (Insert moment of silent praise here).
But let’s be honest, I’m not sure the commission would have tightened it up if not for some subtle pressure for more specific guidelines and transparency applied by folks like the county auditor, the county treasurer, etc. And it’s obvious an official from the United States Treasury Department being on the line in a conference call with the state treasurer last Friday helped spur the county to tighten things up as well.
Thinking back to that first video conference chat the county commission held on the topic with Matt Tapp, executive director of the Platte County EDC, the county commissioners wanted a very simple application process. Sounded like their goal was to have about a two question grant request form to the effect of: 1. Do you have a business in Platte County? 2. How much money do you want?
That’s when many folks including a local newspaperman, the county auditor, the county treasurer and many others got a little nervous about what seemed like an overly casual approach that could easily lead to cronyism and related disasters.
When it comes to federal government money, proceed with caution. Because if you trust that someone at the federal level doesn’t have the power, or the desire, to come back at a later date and audit this process to see if the money was distributed properly and for the right purposes while following some ever-changing federal guidelines, then you’re not familiar with the ways of the federal government.
It’s best to operate this rodeo with the assumption that the feds are going to come back at some point with a microscope and pry through your body cavities. Kind of like a colonoscopy. Without a sedative.
Platte County commissioners are still describing their grant program as a “Survive and Thrive” operation. Presiding Commissioner Ron Schieber has publicly said on several occasions he wants the program to not only help qualifying businesses “survive” any losses due to the shutdown but then he wants the grant money to be used to help the recipients “thrive” afterward.
Uh oh. It’s the “thrive” part that is making me nervous again.
Where does it say in the federal guidelines that the purpose of the CARES Act funding is to help businesses thrive? I can’t find it in there. What I read in the federal guidelines is that the purpose of the money is to “provide economic support to those suffering from business interruptions due to COVID-19-related business closures.”
There’s a potentially dangerous difference between providing support due to forced business closures and providing additional free money to help a business “thrive.”
Call me overly cautious but it seems clear to me that the intent of the CARES Act funding as passed by Congress is to be a “relief” package, not an “expansion” package.
I mean, we all know our county commissioners are fond of big jails and stuff but I’d hate to see any of them end up behind bars for misappropriating $12 million in federal money.
This is where the cowboy rides away.
Fun moment Tuesday night when several members of the Platte County Mayors Council appeared at the Platte City Board of Aldermen to make a presentation to outgoing Platte City Mayor Frank Offutt, who later rode off into the sunset with the First Lady by his side. Actually Offutt and his bride walked off into the sunset, as his home is within a peaceful stroll of the Platte City Civic Center, which is where Tuesday’s socially distant meeting was held.
Platte Woods Mayor John Smedley, backed up by Tracy Mayor Rita Rhoads, Weatherby Lake Mayor Steve Clark, Houston Lake Mayor Pam Freese and Riverside Mayor Kathy Rose, presented Offutt with a “certificate of insanity” for having served as mayor for a total of 16 years.
Sadly, Nan Johnston, Parkville mayor, “could not make it” and now thousands of Platte Citians are feeling slighted.
Count on Frank Offutt being a guest on an upcoming episode of Landmark Live to discuss his 16 years of leading Platte City. Should be an interesting and potentially entertaining behind-the-scenes look at the longest serving mayor in Platte City’s history.
You’ve noticed we put Landmark Live on the shelf for the past seven weeks or so, waiting for some relaxed social distancing standards to make the format a little simpler production. But we’ll work through it soon for an episode with the longtime mayor, and then in August we’ll be out on location for a soon-to-be announced show on the road.
(Get caught up on all past episodes of Landmark Live by finding them at the new and improved plattecountylandmark.com)