Raleigh City Council offers relief to businesses impacted by COVID-19, weekend unrest

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN)– The Raleigh City Council took several steps Tuesday afternoon to help businesses impacted by COVID-19 and this past weekend’s unrest.

The actions of the city council will allow merchants to save a little money as they recover from both the impacts of the pandemic as well as the riots.

Outdoor dining at local restaurants has become more important in the days of social distancing to help restaurant owners make some money.

On Tuesday, the City of Raleigh announced that outdoor dining permits would be automatically renewed with no fee, as long as the restaurant has an active current permit.

Many downtown businesses also suffered damage during the riots that followed the peaceful protests throughout the weekend.

The council unanimously approved a proposal that will streamline the permit process for any place that suffered storefront damage.

“We actually tried to investigate waiver of permits, but the state said we can’t do that, but we can create a short form and waive fees for a temporary period of time,” said City Manager Ruffin Hall.

That waiver of fees runs from now until the end of July and it only applies to storefront damage — not to major construction projects inside of a building.

In the wake of this weekend’s riots, the Raleigh City Council moved forward with a plan to engage in racial equality workshops.

The council says it had actually planned to hold those workshops well before George Floyd was killed and the recent unrest swept through Raleigh and other cities.

The council unanimously approved $17,000 for consultants to conduct race equity training that will be done both in person and virtually.

“For some folks, they think race equity only affects policing,  but it affects every single decision we make at the city level right down to water usage,” explained city councilor Saige Martin.

Because some of the training will be online, the public will also be able to stream parts of the training for their own use.

This is not the first time the city has paid for racial equity training.

They did something similar in 2016, but in the intervening years, the makeup of the council has changed dramatically.

Councilor Martin also asked for a “comprehensive report” to look at how the police department executed its riot plans, how resources were deployed by police and to look at use of force by officers.

An objection to that report was raised by Councilor Patrick Buffkin who said it would ”second guess” the police department.

Buffkin also worried production of a report right now would right now would divert the police chief’s attention during the current curfew.

The mayor said the report would be produced once the current situation ends, be it in a few days, a week, or a month from now.

The council also says it will hold a special meeting on the protests this Thursday night at 7 p.m.  

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