In a largely pro-forma meeting of the City Council, money was allocated for very small businesses, an update was given on small business relief measure, and three City Councilors spoke up against re-opening our city too quickly.
The meeting was held using video conferencing for the safety of council members and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Council approved a $400,000 reallocation from the Community Development Block Grant 2019-2020 Operating Agreement with the Oklahoma City Urban Renewal Authority.
This will allow the establishment of a micro-enterprise grant program for small businesses with 5 or fewer employees. The recipients of the grant will have to be located in Urban Renewal areas of the city.
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The Council also received a brief update on the Small Business Support Program. Applications have closed for the program.
Cathy O’Connor, Director of the Oklahoma City Alliance for Economic Development, said that over 600 applications have been received. Currently, a staff of 20 people are processing the applications and mapping the locations of the businesses. Approximately 60 of the applications appear to be from outside of city limits. The program is for businesses that are within the City limits.
The four kinds of assistance available through the program were a cash incentive for businesses with 15 or fewer employees.
There are also two kinds of loans, a forgivable loan and a low interest loan reserved for businesses with 50 or fewer employees. The Alliance is also offering technical help for businesses with no prerequisites apart from being in Oklahoma City limits.
During the time set aside for comments from Council, Ward 2 Councilman James Cooper spoke at length.
He urged the rest of the council to join him in signing a resolution to be sent to the state and federal governments asking formally to include his six-point plan in future Covid relief and response voting.
Cooper’s six point plan includes:
- Mass testing for the virus
- Radical scaling up of Personal Protection Equipment for healthcare workers and residents
- Continued investment in individuals so that people may stay home instead of risking their health and safety
- Further investment in small businesses until things return to normal
- A concerted effort to allow all people to vote by mail
- Investment in state and municipal governments
Ward 4 Councilman Todd Stone asked Cooper what that mass testing looks like. Cooper explained that it would not only be a multitude of tests readily available for all, but a dramatic increase in contact tracing.
Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon* echoed Cooper’s remarks and pointed out that a hasty re-opening of businesses would result in front line service providers such as cashiers, barbers, and servers to have to make the choice of facing the danger of returning to work, or take the chance of losing unemployment benefits.
Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice joined the pair in saying the re-opening is coming too quickly. She thanked members of the community who have selflessly made the sacrifice to keep their businesses closed to protect their neighbors during this difficult time. Nice said she strongly supports Cooper’s proposed resolution.
In contrast, Ward 1’s James Greiner two weeks ago said that the declaration of emergency should expire on April 30 without extension.
The next meeting of the City Council will be on May 12 at 8:30am.
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*This reporter is the husband of Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon.