White proposes giving half of Jackson County's CARES Act money to cities

STOCK Jackson County Courthouse
Posted at 7:14 PM, Jun 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-08 20:14:32-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County Executive Frank White Jr. announced his proposal for divvying up federal CARES Act funding and it includes $27.6 million for Kansas City, Missouri. He also took legislators to task for perceived failings in a statement Monday afternoon from his office.

The proposed allocation for KCMO is roughly half what Mayor Quinton Lucas requested in mid-May when he appeared before the Jackson County Legislature.

Kansas City, which has its own health department separate from Jackson County’s, fell just short of the 500,000 population threshold to receive its own funding from the CARES Act.

Lucas appeared May 18 at a meeting of the legislature and requested $54.6 million of the $122.7 million in CARES Act funding Missouri had allocated for Jackson County, noting that KCMO — the largest city in Missouri by population and area — accounts for 44.5% of the county’s population.

Instead, White proposed barely half of that in announcing his plan to distribute half of the county’s CARES Act disbursement to every city in Jackson County.

Six other cities would receive at least $1 million under the proposal, led by Independence, which would be in line for nearly $10.2 million, and Lee’s Summit, which would receive nearly $8.5 million.

Blue Springs ($4.87 million), Grain Valley ($1.27 million), Grandview ($2.17 million) and Raytown ($2.53 million) would also receive significant payouts “to address the urgent needs in their communities,” according to a release from White’s office.

Here’s the breakdown of municipal distributions under White’s plan, which would require the approval of the Jackson County Legislature:

  • Blue Springs, $4,870,864.99
  • Buckner, $263,657.85
  • Grain Valley, $1,267,337.49
  • Grandview, $2,168,590.16
  • Greenwood, $508,732.27
  • Independence, $10,179,182.15
  • Kansas City, $27,642,719.38
  • Lake Lotawana, $184,002.12
  • Lake Tapawingo, $62,729.98
  • Lee's Summit, $8,484,774.78
  • Levasy, $7,154.18
  • Lone Jack, $115,426.65
  • Oak Grove, $711,754.05
  • Pleasant Hill, $523.48
  • Raytown, $2,529,352.97
  • River Bend, $872.46
  • Sibley, $31,932.09
  • Sugar Creek, $284,422.43
  • Unity Village, $6,368.97
  • Unincorporated, $2,014,600.72

The money could be used by city governments to “meet payroll expenses for public safety, public health, health care, human services and similar employees” who had a role in the local COVID-19 response.

The money also could be used to provide emergency financial assistance to residents, food delivery for vulnerable populations, distance-learning initiatives and caring for the homeless, among other eligible expenditures.

KCMO previously requested $27.1 million in emergency funds for testing and other emergency response needs, a request that’s so far gone unfunded.

White was critical of the Jackson County Legislature’s response amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

He took legislators to task for refusing to have a hearing on his proposal for $1.5 million to help Harvesters and other local food banks in the Joe Runions Act, as well as a delayed response to requests from the KCMO and county health departments for contact-tracing funding.

“I was hopeful that Jackson County had come far enough to be able to distribute these funds appropriately and in the best interest of the County,” White said in a statement. “Unfortunately, recent actions by some members of the County Legislature have caused me to question their ability to act in the best interest of our community. I am confident that this plan will ensure that these funds are put into our community, where they are needed, as quickly as possible.”

According to the county’s online CARES Act funding tracker as of Monday evening, only $5.7 million — or less than 5% — of the money Jackson County received has actually been spent on COVID-19 programs with less than $14.4 budgeted.

It’s unclear how the more than $2 million for unincorporated portions of the county would be distributed under White’s plan.

“I am making this recommendation due to the significant toll COVID-19 has taken on our community, the limited amount of resources available to cities to combat the virus’ impact and my belief that local elected officials are best suited to address the unique needs in their communities,” White said in a statement.

White also criticized what he characterized as “political motivations” behind some legislators’ vote last week to disapprove of a volunteer advisory White had assembled.

White disbanded the CARES Act Volunteer Advisory Group in an undated letter sent to its members, including former KCMO Mayor Sly James. Read the full text of the letter: