Topeka, KS has always been a community that has been able persevere through challenging times. We won’t bore you with a history lesson but just trust us, we’ve been knocked back, sometimes all the way down, but Topeka is a resilient community and always gets back up to find a way to take care of their own.
During the COVID-19 outbreak all communities have been affected and Topeka is no different. We have all seen measures taken to mitigate the spread of the virus and all those measures have had some impact, one way or the other, on local, state and the national economy. In Topeka, many small businesses were being impacted profoundly by stay-at-home orders and shutdowns of non-essential businesses. The people of the business community in Topeka were getting worried, as well as the entire community, and we knew that we had to act fast to make it through.
Thanks to some good old Topeka grit and ingenuity, there came an idea to come together as a community to help support struggling small businesses and the recently unemployed. This idea soon grew into what is now called the HOST Relief Program, a private-public partnership that Helps Others Support Topeka (HOST). Through private donations from local businesses and individuals, and matching public funds through GO Topeka, the HOST Relief program has been able to provide sustainable support and capital to local businesses of Topeka and Shawnee County.
“In a time of need, Topeka always comes together, even from 6-feet away. I am amazed at the outpouring of support from local and regional businesses,” says Scott Hunsicker, owner and president, Kansas Financial Resources, and lead organizer of the HOST Relief effort. “Topeka is a survivor; from the ‘66 Tornado to the current COVID-19 crisis. Local and regional businesses are the life blood of our community. It is important that we assist them during this time. We lose alone and win together.”
GO Topeka was able to secure $1 million of public dollars to complement the private dollars raised. To date, $655,000 has been raised by private donations. The private dollars are being used to purchase gift cards from local businesses that are then distributed to other businesses throughout Topeka and Shawnee County. These gift cards are to be given to their displaced workers to assist them during this time. Businesses are also able to apply for the public side of the HOST Relief Fund where they could be eligible to receive up to $5,000 in grants.
“These grants will provide aid to those most affected by the challenges brought by COVID-19,” says Molly Howey, president of GO Topeka. “It is GO Topeka’s hope that the HOST Relief Program can give small businesses and displaced workers in Shawnee County some hope for the future. We are committed to giving this community the support it needs to make it through these hardships.”
To date, a total of 99 small businesses have received HOST Relief funding. $655,000 in private HOST Relief donations have been raised to purchase gift cards from local businesses; $388,000 of these funds have been distributed to over 1,300 furloughed workers in Shawnee County. Applications for the public funds are still being evaluated.
(Submitted by GO Topeka.)
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