As Congress continues to work toward another pandemic stimulus package that could include funding for state and local government, Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said Thursday federal relief could help offset personnel costs incurred because of the pandemic.
As employees – mostly in the street, fire and police departments – were exposed to or contracted the virus, other workers had to be called in to work to compensate, Henry said.
"Overtime has been somewhat of a challenge," he said.
In addition to extra labor costs, Henry said he would also like to put as much federal money toward assistance for small businesses, particularly restaurants, bars and hotels.
"What concerns me most and I pretty consistently said this is to put ourselves in the position as a municipality to help out small businesses, particularly those in the hospitality arena," Henry said. "I would like to position (the city) to help them not only with payroll protection and PPE but other expenses they might have incurred."
The mayor used The Green Frog, owned by his wife Cindy, as an example. The bar and restaurant has been closed for several months, but still requires about $1,000 a month in utility bills, Henry said, adding that the predicament is not unique to his wife's establishment.
"There are all these fixed expenses they need to pay and they don't have any revenue coming in."
It's not yet clear what any upcoming stimulus package will include, nor is it clear what restrictions local governments will face when trying to spend that money. But Henry said there are numerous areas the city will explore, "if we're given the latitude over spending."
"My main concern is to get some of these small businesses back on their feet as quickly as possible," he said. "We have an obligation to do that."