Local businesses oppose city’s ARPA distribution process

(ST. JOSEPH, Missouri) Sean Connors wasted no time when he saw an opportunity to raise funds for his nonprofit organization.

Connors, who runs Something Else Cabaret, a 501 C-3 that struggled during the pandemic, said during the process it became clear that he had been left out of the spotlight.

“People have sent full presentations into their apps,” Connors said. “We, Joe Schmo, the little people had a little shape that some people wrote by hand.”

Connors was not alone, he said his business was one of 59 local businesses that applied but did not get funding.

Maria Ramirez heads the local branch of Te Lo Cuento News, a grassroots Spanish news organization, she said at the time of her presentation she had not had time to prepare.

She added that the distribution process was not done fairly.

The city council-appointed American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) committee made the decision to distribute the $ 13 million the city would receive, who would get funding, and how much each organization would receive. City council approved the budget breakdown at this week’s city council meeting.

They focused on community impact.

“We wanted to make recommendations that would create transformational change,” said Tama Wagner, chair of the ARPA committee.

Wagner said the committee’s decision on who to fund was based on previous measures taken by the government in response to the economic impact of Covid-19.

“We felt that direct Covid relief had been factored into previous federal government investments in the community,” Wagner said. “We have really used these funds as an opportunity to rebuild our community and to solve longstanding issues.”

Wagner said the committee wanted to focus on public safety, jobs, education and appearance in the community, however, those who did not receive funding said they felt left out and that their communities have been forgotten.

“Right now it’s more important than the money,” Ramirez said. “It is about respecting at least 7% of the [Hispanic] population that lives here. “

With so much funding on the table, they feel their voice needs to be heard

“I think everyone should have a seat at the table,” Connors said.

The city is expected to receive additional ARPA funding next year.

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