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Local businesses oppose city's ARPA distribution process

21 local businesses were approved for a portion of $13 million in ARPA funds, but owners of those who were denied said the distribution process was unfair.

Posted: Sep 9, 2021 1:37 AM
Updated: Sep 9, 2021 6:58 PM

(ST. JOSEPH, Mo.) Sean Connors wasted no time when he saw an opportunity to claim to fund for his non-profit.

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

"People sent full-on presentations in their applications," Connors said.  "Us Joe Schmo small people had a little form that some people hand wrote."

Connors wasn't alone, he said his business was one of 59 local businesses that applied but were not granted funding.

Maria Ramirez runs the local chapter of Te Lo Cuento News, a grassroots Spanish news organization, she said she received a rejection letter 2 hours before presentations were set to begin at city hall. 

Ramirez added the distribution process wasn't done fairly.

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

Their focus was on community impact.

"We wanted to make recommendations that would create transformational change," Tama Wagner, ARPA Committee chair said. 

Wagner said the committee's decision on who got funded was based on previous measures the government took in response to Covid-19's economic impact.

"We felt as if direct Covid relief had been addressed in prior federal government investments in the community," Wagner said. "We really used these funds as an opportunity to rebuild our community and address long-standing problems."

Wagner said the committee wanted to focus on public safety, jobs, education & community appearance, however, those who didn't receive funding said they felt their exclusion says their communities were forgotten

"Right now this is bigger than the money," Ramirez said.  "This is about the respect of 7% minimum of the [Hispanic] population that lives here."

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

"I think everybody should have a seat at the table," Connors said. 

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

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