WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Some local businesses, families, and non-profits are still struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic. But there is a lot of help available to them.
If you know someone who could use financial assistance, Sedgwick County wants them to call Recovery Connect at 316-978-6737.
Stephanie Bergmann Birmingham, who used to be with KSN News, is the Sedgwick County COVID-19 public information officer.
“People can find information on their own, but I really encourage them to call Recovery Connect because our navigators can not only help them find out if they’re eligible, but they may be eligible for more than one program, so let Recovery Connect do the work for you,” she said.
Recovery Connect is a county initiative funded by the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). It is free to county residents.
One of the programs Recovery Connect coordinates with is Kansas Emergency Rental Assistance.
“We’ve talked in the past about help available for those at risk of losing their homes,” Bergmann Birmingham said. “This is for tenants who also are at risk of becoming homeless. They also have to demonstrate a hardship caused by COVID. That could be a loss of a job, a loss of household income. It could just be a significant expense caused by COVID.”
Kansas Emergency Rental Assistance provides money for rent, utilities and internet service. Tenants and landlords apply jointly.
“They are not pitted against each other,” she said. “This is a cooperative thing.”
If approved, the funds are paid directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant. The assistance can be for up to 18 months. It can go toward past bills or future bills.
Another option is the Affordable Connectivity Program which helps low-income residents pay for internet or broadband services.
“These days internet is not a luxury. It’s a necessity,” Bergmann Birmingham said.
The Affordable Connectivity Program provides up to $30 a month per household. The money goes directly to the internet provider. Families can also get a one-time $100 voucher to buy computer equipment.
“There are income requirements, but basically, if your household is eligible for SNAP, for free school lunches, or Medicaid, you are eligible for this”
Another program, the State Small Business Credit Initiative, can help small businesses.
“Just in the last few weeks, there have been some developments that are really going to help small businesses,” Bergmann Birmingham said. “Through the Department of the Treasury, Kansas was awarded almost $70 million, and this is going to help underserved small businesses.”
The money goes to the GROWKS Loan Fund and Equity Programs. Kansas wants to make sure 40% of the help goes to women-owned businesses, and 20% goes to minority-owned small businesses.
Another program provides a partial tax refund for some businesses. The governor signed into law the COVID-19 Retail Storefront Property Tax Relief Act.
The act provides $50 million in partial refunds for certain businesses that were shut down or restricted during the coronavirus pandemic. Companies that qualify can get up to $5,000 for 2020 and for 2021.
Businesses that were allowed to stay open during the pandemic do not qualify. Also, businesses that have received $150,000 in prior COVID-19 funding do not qualify.
To see if you qualify for any of the programs mentioned, call Recovery Connect at 316-978-6737.