The first meeting of the 24-member Manhattan Area Regional Recovery Task Force was held Wednesday.
Members of the task force were generally united around the idea of consistent communication, noting the messaging businesses receive from elected officials and the local health departments must be uniform, a point echoed by Downtown Manhattan, Inc. Executive Director Gina Scroggs.
“The direction needs to be very, very clear to the businesses about what is expected of them, who operates when, the phasing system and everyone needs to be understanding, have the same point of reference and know where to go to get that information,” she said.
Asian Market Manager Fanny Fang says as businesses begin to reopen, she believes protective masking for employees and customers should be a requirement even if there is plexiglass coverings at cash registers.
“I definitely do think that it would be very helpful for the city to help supply some of that PPE for small businesses and for other businesses as well,” she said.
Fang says an unfortunate circumstance of the past few weeks has been in some of the more vulnerable communities. She says grocery stores like hers and others don’t have an online platform for those using EBT or food stamps to purchase their groceries online. They hope elected officials may be able to find a solution in the interim.
USD 383 School Board President Karla Hagemeister says whatever guidelines the task force sets need to be realistic and achievable, especially when it comes to personal protective equipment.
“We need this to be something that the community can look at and say I can achieve those things, so in my mind, when I look at how we frame our recommendation or guidance for what we put out there for PPE, it has to be something people can actually access,” she said.
Much of the conversation surrounded how businesses can keep employees and customers safe and avoid any potential outbreaks of illness. Aggieville Business Association Director Dennis Cook says he trusts the health departments to have clear guidance on that aspect. He says while those are important conversations, the economic recovery piece is vitally important to this task force.
“I represent a lot of small businesses who have been out of business for six weeks. We need to get them back into business or they just may fail completely. We should be thinking about how do I get all these businesses back in business,” he said.
Everything hinges on Governor Laura Kelly’s guidelines which will be unveiled Thursday evening. Once that’s announced, the task force will rely on that information, coupled with advice from the Riley, Geary and Pottawatomie County Health Departments regarding to drive a path toward reopening of businesses.
The task force will meet again Friday at 11 a.m.