WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Gov. Laura Kelly announced at Jenny Dawn Cellars in Wichita on Tuesday that $5 million of HIRE Fund loans that have been awarded to Kansas hospitality businesses will be forgiven and converted into grants. She was joined for the announcement by Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland.
The loans happened in March of last year during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, 344 hospitality businesses received HIRE Fund loans. In the Kansas City metro area, $2 million was distributed to 136 businesses; in Sedgwick County, $1 million was distributed to 68 businesses; and across the rest of the state, $2 million was distributed to 140 businesses.
Those businesses that made payments on the loans will be refunded.
“Those relief dollars that were delivered will become permanent for all businesses served by the HIRE Fund,” said Gov. Kelly. “In communities of all sizes, our hospitality businesses provide a source of shared space and shared identity. They make us proud to be Kansans, they keep our economy strong a vibrant.”
All HIRE recipients will receive an email with details on the process and timeframes involved with this conversion. The Department of Commerce will notify the partners/organizations that are assisting with collections to stop collections and forward all funds to NetWork Kansas for reconciliation.
“We are so glad that the loan dollars delivered will no longer need to be paid back, helping businesses maintain operations until we can safely go to a restaurant or bar, see a movie or concert, stay at a lodging facility while on a family vacation or pay a visit here to Jenny Dawn Cellars, Wichita’s first urban winery,” added Kelly.
In November of 2019, Jennifer McDonald opened her business, Jenny Dawn Cellars. Four months into the new business the pandemic hit, she said this made remaining open difficult. McDonald said she had to shut down her dining area and switch to curbside pick up, to-go orders, and online shipments.
Even as she adapted to a pandemic, she says the month of April her revenue was down and she applied for the state’s hospitality industry relief emergency fund.
“We were so grateful to receive this because it did help to refill that revenue gap I did have to furlough staff but I was able to bring them back,” said McDonald.
McDonald was overwhelmed when she heard the news the loan will be forgiven. She thanked Governor Kelly Tuesday and said the money she received helped her business survive. Now, she is working to expand her business.