Updated at 3:45 p.m. Nov. 19:
The Escambia County Board of County Commissioners approved additional CARES Act fund expenses at its Special Board of County Commissioners meeting on Thursday, Nov. 12.
The meeting began with the Board receiving an update on the Escambia CARES Family Assistance and Business Assistance grant distribution process. Escambia County is well on its way to funding its public grant programs as part of the Escambia CARES initiative launched in September.
The Board of County Commissioners initially set aside $3.5 million in CARES Act funds to be distributed directly to Escambia County residents in the form of direct payments. To impact as many residents as possible, the Board increased the amount of available funds to $16.5 million and the grant’s amount from $2,000 to $3,000.
According to Deputy County Administrator Chips Kirschenfeld, more than 4,900 grant applications are in the final approval stages before funding. Once these grants have been funded, an additional 600 will be approved for funding from the remaining applications. Kirschenfeld said that the county would be able to utilize all $16.5 million earmarked for this program.
Clara Long, Director of Neighborhood and Human Services Department, added that approvals are continuing and anticipates the completion of the approval process for the Escambia CARES Family Assistance grant by the first week of December.
“We are working feverishly to finalize all of the applications and get the money in the hands of our citizens,” Long said. “We know this is important to those who applied, but we must do our diligence in making sure that these grants are distributed accurately. We ask that the applicants be patient and wait for a response before contacting our office. That will help us process all of the applications and get this money into the hands of our residents faster.”
Assistant County Administrator Debbie Bowers indicated that the Escambia CARES Business Assistance Grant program was continuing, with more than 80 applicants still needing review.
The grant programs are a good portion of the CARES Act funding that the county has at its disposal to assist with additional expenses or hardships related to COVID-19. In all, $19.6 million of $57.2 million is dedicated to county residents or businesses.
Along with the grants, in its continuing efforts to assist the community, Escambia County also agreed to distribute $3.65 million in funding initiatives for its citizens. Nearly $2.4 million is allocated to the Escambia Serves program, and the county has apportioned $1.25 million for rapid testing programs.
The Escambia Serves programs benefit county residents through the Feeding the Gulf Coast. Escambia County has also dedicated monies to establish and boost broadband internet service at its parks and community centers, allowing its residents to access the internet at socially distanced locations throughout the county.
Community Health Northwest Florida and Ascension Sacred Heart will be receiving $1.25 million in funding for rapid testing. Rapid testing is essential because it provides potentially infected individuals access to results much quicker so they can reliably begin the quarantine process much sooner.
The county initially received 25% percent of CARES Act money upfront from the federal government by way of the State of Florida. It has until Dec. 3 to encumber the remaining expenses.
To finalize its expenditure plan to submit to the state, the Board eliminated the FEMA Reimbursement category and reassigned more than $60,000 to the COVID Operations and Oversight category. The Board also increased the total funding for the COVID Operations and Oversight category to $400,000 to account for additional staffing needed to complete the Escambia CARES Family Assistance grant program.
The Board also authorized additional expenses to be paid by CARES Act funding:
- A budget of up to $250,000 for the OpenGov Software Service Agreement, allowing for remote budget management
- Expenses for the medical examiner’s office of $107,195.88 in COVID-19 related costs and $51,454.02 in salary
- The implementation of a Human Resource Information System for the Clerk of Court and the county
- An increase in inmate transportation services by Escambia County Sheriff from $23 to $28 per hour
- Coronavirus relief aid in the amount of $2,204,714.40 for the City of Pensacola
- Increase COVID-19 Operations and Oversight to $400,000
In all, the Board ratified the spending categories for the $57.3 million in CARES Act funding. In total, $30.3 million is allocated to Public Health and Safety, $19.6 million to resident and business grant programs, $3.4 million to Government Response and Compliance, $2.3 million to Escambia Serves programs, $1.25 million to Rapid Testing and $400,000 to COVID-19 Operations and Oversight.
For grant program information and to view check registers, please visit myescambia.com/cares.
(click to enlarge)