June 8, 2020

Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr. today is recommending that the County Legislature give half of the federal CARES ACT monies that the County received to cities within the County to address the urgent needs in their communities.

“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,” said Jackson County Executive Frank White, Jr.

Specifically, the County Executive is recommending one-half of the $122,669,998.30 in federal CARES Act funds received by Jackson County be distributed, by population based on the most recent U.S. Census data, to the cities within Jackson County. Cities would be able to use these funds to pay for any necessary expense incurred due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Examples of necessary expenses include:

To meet payroll expenses for public safety, public health, health care, human services and similar employees whose services are substantially dedicated to mitigating or responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency

To provide emergency financial assistance to individuals and families directly impacted by a loss of income due to the COVID-19 public health emergency

Food delivery to residents (i.e. senior citizens and other vulnerable populations)

Facilitate distance learning (i.e. technological improvements, in connection with school closings)

Care for homeless populations provided to mitigate COVID-19 effects

If approved by the County Legislature, the County Executive’s proposal would provide communities in Jackson County the following funding:
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

“For the County to receive these funds, I had to sign my name and promise that the funds would be used appropriately. At the time, 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. “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.”

Recent actions by the Legislature that have raised concern for the County Executive include:

His proposal in the Joe Runions Act included $1.5 million to support Harvesters and other foods banks in our area. This portion of the proposal has never received a hearing, nor has one dollar been appropriated for Harvesters or others, despite the Legislature passing Resolution 20437 thanking them for their response to COVID-19.

On May 4, the Jackson County Health Department requested $5 million for contact testing and tracing, critical components to monitoring the spread of the virus and protecting public health. For weeks, the request was delayed by the Chair of the Legislature. When it was finally passed, the Legislature cut $3.5 million from the amount requested.

The Kansas City Health Department requested $11.7 million in funding for contact testing and tracing on May 18. Despite the County Executive’s full support for their request, the County Legislature once again refused to provide the funding requested by a health department. To date, less than 1/4 of the funding requested by Kansas City’s Health Department has been approved by the County Legislature.

On May 18, the County Executive named a small group of volunteer advisors to assist the County in determining the most impactful and appropriate usage of CARES Act funds. This group included, amongst others, a former Mayor of Kansas City, an expert in urban planning, as well as the Dean of UMKC’s Medical School, who also happens to be a national expert in infectious diseases. However, despite having no legal authority to disapprove of the volunteer advisors’ willingness to serve (see attached legal opinion), four members of the County Legislature voted to do just that last week. Unable to ignore the political motivations behind the legislators’ actions, the County Executive informed the volunteer advisors that he could not in good conscious ask them to continue in their work.

On March 27, Congress passed and the president signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which established a new $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) for state, county and municipal governments with populations of over 500,000 people to address necessary expenditures incurred due to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Accordingly, Jackson County received $122,669,998.30, which may only be used to cover costs that:

Are necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID–19); and

Were not accounted for in the budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act); and

Were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020 and ends on December 30, 2020.

While this is the County Executive’s proposal, the ultimate decision on how much funding is made available and who receives it, will be up to the Legislature.

To date, the Jackson County Legislature has approved approximately $42 million in CRF funding in Jackson County. The public can track all COVID-19 expenditures on the Jackson County website.