WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Governor Laura Kelly announced Tuesday at the Jelny Dawn Cellars in Wichita that $ 5 million in HIRE Fund loans given to Kansas hospitality businesses will be pardoned and turned into grants. She joined in for the announcement by Lieutenant Governor and Commerce Secretary David Toland.
The loans occurred in March last year during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In total, 344 host businesses received loans from the HIRE Fund. In the Kansas City subway 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 have made loan payments will be reimbursed.
“Those relief dollars that were handed over will become permanent for all businesses served by the HIRE Fund,” said Governor 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. “
All HIRE recipients will receive an email with details of the process and timelines included in this conversion. Department of Commerce will notify partners / organizations that are assisting with collections to stop meetings and divert all funds to NetWork Kansas for reconciliation.
“We are very pleased that the loan dollars delivered will no longer have to be returned, helping businesses maintain operations until we can safely go to a restaurant or bar, watch a movie or concert, stay in a accommodation facility while on family vacation or pay a visit here to Jenny Dawn Cellars, Wichita’s first urban winery, “Kelly added.
In November 2019, Jennifer McDonald opened her own business, Jenny Dawn Cellars. Four months into the new pandemic hit business, she said it made it difficult to stay open. McDonald said she had to close her dining area and move to the street garden, orders to go and online deliveries.
Even while adjusting to a pandemic, she says in April her income was declining and she applied for the state hospital industry emergency aid fund. “We were so thankful we got this because it helped to fill that revenue gap, but I was able to get the staff back,” McDonald said.
McDonald was shocked to hear the news that the loan will be forgiven. She thanked Governor Kelly on Tuesday and said the money she received helped her business survive. Now, she is working to expand her business.
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