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Bowie City Council business relief stalled over impasse in funding allocation

In June, the Bowie City Council allocated $200,000 to be spent by the Bowie Business Innovation Center and the Greater Bowie Chamber of Commerce to help businesses get funding and adapt as they recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But at the Bowie City Council meeting Aug. 3, it was apparent an impasse meant that money was yet to be spent. Mayor Tim Adams asked for council members to volunteer to work with the groups to move the effort forward, and to work out how funds would be allocated between the groups.

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Bowie Business Innovation Center Board Chair Sherman Ragland said the two had disagreed about whether the council had allocated $200,000 split equally between the entities, or if they had allocated the money to BIC, which would be a prime contractor with the chamber as a subcontractor which it would pay from the $200,000. Ragland said BIC agreed to go back to the council for clarification.

District 2 Councilman DuFour Woolfley, who made the motion on June 16, volunteered to work with the entities to make sure a program was implemented to help Bowie businesses find other sources of funding assistance from the county, state and federal government, as well as general business advice to weather an unprecedented financial storm.

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He said when he made his motion June 16 his intent, and wording to allocate $200,000 to the BIC “inclusive of monies for the chamber,” was meant to put the BIC in charge, as the BIC has the most experience working with the city to fulfill contracts and educate entrepreneurs.

“I do hope that we can move this forward because we do have a lot of needy people out there, a lot of businesses that have struggled and could certainly benefit from the training and education that we intended to provide,” he said.

That action to allocate $200,000 to the BIC was successful, but came at the end of a long discussion about what Bowie’s role should be in helping businesses financially, and what the city could afford as it faces the same dire fiscal outlook.

District 4 Councilwoman Roxy Ndebumadu initially proposed a grant program for Bowie businesses, but the proposed cost of $2 million was a sticking point, and the relief was pared down to funds to pay for BIC and the chamber to train business owners to help weather the pandemic and navigate the search for financial assistance.

“It’s unfortunate that we’re still discussing this,” she said Monday.

Ndebumadu also volunteered to work with the chamber and BIC to advance the program.

Greater Bowie Chamber of Commerce President Terry Rogers said small mom and pop businesses are experiencing trauma right now, and said they have been advocating for businesses since 1983. He said they will continue their mission of advocating for those businesses on the city, county and state level.

At-Large Councilwoman Ingrid Harrison introduced an amendment Monday to evenly split of funds between the entities, but it failed. She said it was unfortunate that other council members were not willing to give the chamber a chance.

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