CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The North Carolina city slated to host the Republican National Convention voted Monday to accept a federal grant for security-related costs, despite concerns the event may not proceed as planned amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Charlotte City Council voted 6-5 to accept $50 million from the Justice Department to cover emergency medical services and insurance costs for the convention, which is scheduled to take place from Aug. 24-27, news outlets reported.
The event is expected to draw 50,000 people from across the country to Charlotte’s downtown arena and other venues, a fact that some councilors cited in voting down the funds over concerns the convention could lead to major coronavirus outbreaks.
“We need to stop this charade right now. We should not tell our city staff or CMPD to plan for something that we know is not going to happen,” Councilman Braxton Winston said, suggesting the council begin planning for a virtual convention instead.
City Attorney Patrick Baker emphasized that the city was obligated to host the convention regardless of accepting the grant money, and Mayor Pro Tem Julie Eiselt added that Charlotte could be held financially responsible for convention-related expenses if it chooses not to accept the grant.
She said the Monday vote was not “an opportunity to back out of the convention.”
The Republican National Convention’s leadership has said the event is set to move forward with public safety precautions in place such as masks and social distancing. Charlotte Mayor Vi Lyles said the city would follow guidance from public health officials and health systems as planning continues, according to The Charlotte Observer.