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Records show lack of progress, payments for grant program intended to help Shelby County workers impacted by pandemic

Hundreds of Shelby County restaurant, hotel grant applicants waiting for answers and/or checks.

MEMPHIS, Tennessee — "Certainly surprised, you know, this is the thing that (Shelby County) Mayor (Lee) Harris was adamant about getting done," Memphis Restaurant Association President Mike Miller said.

Miller - who owns Patrick's Restaurant in east Memphis - is reacting to the lack of progress - or payments - from a grant program intended to help up to 2,400 local restaurant and hotel workers impacted by the pandemic with $1,000 checks. In January, the Shelby County Commission approved the Memphis Urban League to oversee that grant program, using money from the county's reserve fund.

"This was supposed to be a helping hand from our taxpayers and the government, the county government, and nothing has come to fruition yet," 

According to the Memphis Urban League grant log obtained by Local 24 News, as of Monday, only 68 of more than 1,100 grant applications were approved but no grant money has yet to be distributed.

"It is my understanding that no checks have been issued as of yet," Miller said.

That would go against the grant's contract, which said payments of approved recipients would be disbursed starting Friday, March 19th. Tuesday, a Memphis restaurant server provided Local 24 News a notice from the Memphis Urban League March 13th. He's one of the more than 1,000 applicants still waiting word on whether they were approved or denied.

"I mean obviously we are sort of half of the applications needed to fulfill the grant and we don't know what the deal is," Miller said.

Local 24 News emailed and called the Memphis Urban League office multiple times Tuesday for a response but haven't heard back. Mayor Harris updated the situation Tuesday afternoon.

"They have begun issuing applications and issuing checks to those folks in those industries who have been impacted," Mayor Harris said.

According to the Memphis Urban League's website, eligible restaurant and hotel workers have until the end of Thursday night to apply for the grant online. That can be done here: https://apps.memul.org/RestaurantHotelReliefGrant/.

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