What began with a Wichita gym suing the state now could bring relief for Kansas businesses

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WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Big bucks could be coming to some businesses hit hard by the pandemic. Senate Bill 273, which would bring money to businesses, is sitting on the governor’s desk. 

One Wichita gym owner played a major role in pushing this through the legislature.

The governor’s stay-at-home order at the beginning of the crisis lasted five weeks, which resulted in many businesses shutting their doors. Communities then put restrictions on hours and capacity limits in place impacting companies’ profits.

Six months ago, Fitbody Bootcamp owner Ryan Floyd filed a lawsuit against the state. The purpose was to compensate small businesses for assisting in the state of emergency. This influenced the creation of a bill. Floyd says he is amazed at how far it has come. 

“I was actually kind of shocked to get the news over the weekend,” he said.

The recently-passed Kansas proposal would make it so a three-person council, one member selected by the governor and two by legislative leaders, would set the guidelines of how the money will be dispersed.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Laura Kelly’s office said the governor has not received the bill yet. Kelly can decide to sign, veto, or let it become law without her signature, but Floyd said it’s a big step for small businesses.  

“It’s a big step knowing that we have backing for the small businesses that were hurt so bad, and are now here, where most of our legislators in the state of Kansas, are wanting to help support us,” said Floyd. 

The money would come from what the state is receiving in the Federal American Rescue Plan Act. $500 million would be set aside for businesses with 50 or fewer employees in the state. Some counties with restrictive health orders may also have to use some federal funding for those businesses. 

Cana Wine and Spirits owner Rodney Horton said help should have come sooner, but the bill will help businesses like his. He said it’s the light at the end of a long tunnel.

“We’ve all been patient, some people haven’t made it this far, I mean we’ve struggled along and struggled through it,” said Horton. “I’m excited and hopefully, there’ll be relief for very small businesses that are truly not fitting in all the categories that the federal government first decided to help with.”

Sedgwick County is receiving $100 million. Of that, the bill states 35% would go toward small businesses impacted by pandemic restrictions. 

Sedgwick County Manager Tom Stolz said he’s concerned about some parts of the bill. 

He said because the relief money is going to cities, counties, and the state, it will take more coordination between leaders. Stolz said it could be difficult to ensure no business misses out or gets paid twice. The thing he agrees with is doing what they can to help small businesses. 

“I don’t know that the commission has a problem with that, we just want to do it fairly transparently and within the rules of confines of what the federal government gives us,” he said. 

Stolz says the commission is reaching out to cities in the county to work out a plan, all in preparation if the governor signs the bill. 

Here is a closer look at the bill.

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