In early May Lee County received $135 million of federal CARES COVID-19 relief funding as part of the $150 billion to assist state and local governments to cover community-wide expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency. This included the secondary economic impacts caused by business interruptions and loss of employment due to COVID-19; these expenditures are for the period of March 1 to Dec. 31, 2020.
Because the federal allocation formula limited funding to only the large local governments (500,000 and higher), only 12 counties in Florida received funding – and Lee County is the ONLY county in Southwest Florida receiving these funds.
At the May 5 Lee County Commission meeting, County Manager Roger Desjarlais discussed how the board might use the funds in its existing human service and economic development programs — as if the money was intended only for the county administration vs. ALL the governmental entities in the county (e.g. Sheriff, School District, Department of Health, the six municipalities, etc.). The Board was surprised at the receipt of the funds and talked about returning it to the Treasury if they couldn’t use it wisely.
The federal guidelines clearly allow these funds to be used for direct financial assistance to individuals as well as businesses impacted by COVID-19. At the meeting, the county manager said he’d work with his staff to develop a plan (in five days) for commissioners to consider at a special meeting called for May 12, to be exclusively focused on this issue.
It is important that the Commissioners hear from the citizens that no plan should be presented to the Board until the major community partners have a seat at the table to help draw up a community-wide plan that represents the broad COVID-19 related community needs in Lee County. A task force of these partners could be brought together to develop a fair and effective plan during May, with that plan to be reviewed by the community and the commissioners in early June for swift approval and implementation.
We know many people and businesses are hurting badly and we need to use the funds to best address these urgent needs. Please consider contacting the County Commissioners before their May 12 meeting. You can either submit e-comments or speak in person. See details below.
For more background, Lee Future encourages you to read the excellent comments from Women for a Better Lee that were sent to the County Commissioners.
Submit an e-Comment for the May 12 Meeting
The form will ask you to enter the Agenda Date (May 12) and Agenda Item #, (Item 1: Presentation of CARES Act Funding.)
Women For a Better Lee is a movement led by women and comprised of Lee County voters who seek good governance, smartly-planned growth and a more livable community.
To get on their mailing list, email: WFBL2020@gmail.com; Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/WomenForABetterLee