KC mayor waits for funding response from Jackson County, saying lives depend on it

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The fight against the coronavirus is having a big effect on Kansas City, especially when it comes to the budget.

But the city’s population was under the required number to receive direct federal relief funding for virus-related costs.

On Monday, Mayor Quinton Lucas formally, alongside KC Health Director Rex Archer, attended the Jackson County Legislature meeting and requested help.

They’re asking for more than $54 million in funding to help with coronavirus-related costs.

“It’s important to get money on streets to help pay for our COVID response,” Lucas said, “and certainly to make sure our city council, our city has the confidence to know that, as we’re funding more testing, as we’re funding more contact tracers, as we’re trying to actually make sure we’re funding more small business relief in Kansas City, that we have an avenue by which we’ll be able to do it.”

Jackson County received $120 million from the federal government as part of the CARES Act.

It’s up to the county government to divide the funding up between cities and other county services.

The nearly $55 million Kansas City said it needs would be split between many departments, including the city’s health department, fire and police departments, sanitation, small business assistance and housing assistance.

“Let’s decide what is appropriate and essential for folks,” Lucas said. “What is appropriate and essential is that we make sure there is adequate funding for firefighter overtime because their folks have been quarantined. What I think is essential is tracing. What I think is essential is to pay for testing.”

Lucas said Kansas City needs that funding because it has 44.5% of Jackson County’s population.

Kansas City actually sits in three counties other than Jackson, which are Clay, Platte and Cass counties.

FOX4 also reached out to smaller cities in Jackson County.

Blue Springs spokesperson Miranda Austerman said their city does not have any concerns that expenses related to COVID-19 will not be reimbursed.

“A county-wide system for tracking expenses is being developed,” Austerman said. “While we are still waiting to see the criteria for distribution of the funds, Mayor Ross is confident Blue Springs will get its fair share.”

Independence is the second-largest city in Jackson County, which constitutes 15% of the total county population. City Manager Zach Walker said they serve a population of 120,000 residents.

“The funding from the CARES Act is essential to ensuring we are able to sustain the basic services our residents and guests depend on,” Walker said.

“We look forward to learning more about the process Jackson County intends to use to distribute these funds and ensuring our community receives its fair share.”

Cities across the United States with a population of at least 500,000 received direct COVID-19 relief funding from the government.

As of last count in 2018, Kansas City missed that mark only by about 8,000 people. Today, Lucas believes the city is actually at 505,000 people.

St. Louis, meanwhile, did get $35 million in stimulus money even though it has a smaller population than Kansas City. That’s because St. Louis is the only city in the state that’s not technically part of any county. St. Louis is its own county.

“The pain that is being sustained from COVID-19 isn’t just a next-year issue,” Lucas said. “It isn’t just something we can kick that can down the road.”

Jackson County hasn’t approved Kansas City’s request for that $54 million just yet.

The mayor said he hopes they do sooner rather than later — noting people’s lives depend on it.

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