Monroe County’s total food and beverage COVID-19 relief nudges towards $200K as board gets updates on blood drive, mask promotion

Commish Purdie Mask Screen Shot 2020-05-20 at 10.45.38 AM
Screen shot from the May 20, 2020 meeting of Monroe County’s board of commissioners, which was conducted on the Zoom video conferencing platform.

At Wednesday’s regular meeting of Monroe County’s commissioners, another $5,000 COVID-19 relief grant was made to a tourism-related business outside Bloomington city limits, using food and beverage tax proceeds.

The breakdown for Pili’s Party Taco’s use of the $5,000 grant is: $1,800 rent; $1,200 insurance (truck and supplies); and $2,000 for employee salaries.

The board also got an update on an upcoming blood drive, a mask-wearing promotion, and a comprehensive county planning update.

A blood drive has been in the planning stages for several few weeks—since the COVID-19 pandemic hit. According to county emergency management director Allison Moore, the by-appointment-only blood drive is now set for June 23 at the Monroe County convention center. Moore said it’s possible that final details about hours will be announced by Friday this week. One certainty: Donors will need to make an appointment.

On Wednesday, county health administrator Penny Caudill gave commissioners some news about the five-point pledge released last week at the same time the county health officer’s new order was issued. The new order allows Monroe County businesses  to start opening up, with certain limitations.

The “Five Commitments of COVID-19 Containment” will soon have a way for people to sign it online, Caudill said. Caudill also said there would be an initiative launched next Monday to promote the wearing of face coverings when people are in public.

Assistant planning director Jackie Nester Jelen gave commissioners a heads up that the kick-off to a public engagement process for the county’s consolidated development ordinance (CDO) will take place next Wednesday, May 27. It’s an undertaking that is roughly similar to Bloomington’s revision to its unified development ordinance (UDO), which was completed last year.

COVID-19 business relief with food and beverage tax money

Wednesday’s approval by county commissioners of another $5,000 COVID-19 relief grant brought to $197,314 the total amount awarded so far by the county, using food and beverage tax proceeds.

Commissioner Julie Thomas said that Pili’s Party Taco would use the grant money at its Rockport Road location, which is outside the city limits. Commissioner Penny Githens said she was glad to see that some of the money is going towards employee salaries.

In early May, the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) recommended a second $200,000 chunk to be used by the county for similar relief, bringing the total available to $400,000.

The county council has already voted on the required appropriation for $100,000 of the second FABTAC-recommended chunk. County councilors could vote on the appropriation of the remaining $100,000 at work session next Tuesday.

The county’s food and beverage tax grants are based on an agreement that is signed by businesses that receive the grants. The agreement says says the business has to use the money within a month of receiving it, or else return the money in 20 days.

If the grantee is reimbursed for part of its expenses from a different source, the county is supposed to get back the reimbursed portion. Within three weeks of spending the grant funds, the business has to give the commissioners a written report documenting the use of the money.

Bloomington has a similar program that gives relief to businesses inside the city limits, but it awards loans not grants.

Neither the city nor the county governments are restricting the funds to support businesses or nonprofits that actually collect the food and beverage tax from patrons. The key question is whether the business is tourism-related, a requirement that can be traced to the statute under which the tax is collected. The relationship to tourism is a secondary statutory purpose—the primary one is to support the expansion of the Monroe County convention center.

Guidance from the Indiana State Board of Accounts (SBOA) has been analyzed by both city and county legal staff as giving the green light to expenditures of the food and beverage tax for local economic relief, during the COVID-19 health emergency, provided certain conditions are met.

Among the conditions is that a clear local policy be in place that finds the proposed use of dedicated food and beverage tax funds be the closer to the purpose than general fund money.

Here’s a break down of businesses that have received grant food and beverage tax proceeds from Monroe County to help them deal with the impact of COVID-19.

Approved May 20, 2020

Grantee Amount
Pili’s Party Taco $5,000
Total $5,000

Approved May 13, 2020

Grantee Amount
Fishin’ Shedd $5,000
Wampler House $8,900
On Pointe Pet Sitting Services $1,200
Cleaning Revolution $8,900
Total $24,000

Approved May 1, 2020

Grantee Amount
TJV Balloons, Inc. $4,462
Total $4,462

Approved April 29, 2020

Grantee Amount
Eagle Pointe (golf course, bar, venue) $23,000
Port Hole Inn $20,000
Cabin Restaurant and Lounge $10,500
Beaumont House (bed and breakfast) $10,000
Whippoorwill Hill (farm event venue) $10,000
Sugar Daddy’s Cakes & Catering Cafe $8,000
Rieman Properties $6,500
Westbury Antique Market $5,000
Dance Machine DJ Services $2,500
Total $95,500

Approved April 22, 2020

Grantee Amount
Knightridge, Inc. (Scenic View restaurant) $15,274
Wee Willies West (restaurant) $10,000
Big Sky Campgrounds $8,950
Trailhead Enterprises, Inc. (pizzeria on SR 446) $8,528
Back to Nature Cabins $7,000
Sycamore Farms Bloomington, Inc. (event venue) $5,000
Terry’s Catering, LLC. $5,000
Robert Woodling Rentals $3,800
U’sta-B-New (antique shop) $3,000
Trivia with Skip (bookings) $1,800
Total: $68,352