How should the remaining $77 million in COVID-19 federal relief funds for Lee County be used?

At the May 19th BoCC meeting, the County Commissioners decided how to allocate $57.5 M of the $134.5 M in COVID-19 federal relief funds, leaving $77 million to still be used. The County has not indicated when their proposed allocation plan will be presented to the Board. In anticipation of that discussion, Women for a Better Lee sent a letter to the County Commission on May 31st about how they would like to see those funds used. The onslaught of applications by both individuals and businesses for assistance, as well as child care services, under the LeeCares component, illustrates how much our community is hurting.

Originally published by Women for a Better Lee to Lee County Commissioners

COMMISSIONERS, DO YOUR JOB!

In advance of the next BoCC meeting on Tuesday, June 2, Women For a Better Lee has submitted the letter below for the record.  We believe our county commissioners are not providing the leadership we need in this time of crisis.  We encourage you to watch the meeting on Comcast channels 97 & 1088, CenturyLink channel 89, or via livestreaming at Leegov.com/LeeTV. The meeting begins at 9:30 AM — and don’t forget to watch the commissioners for social distancing!


31 May 2020
Lee Board of County Commissioners
Fort Myers, FL  33901
 
Dear County Commissioners:
On Tuesday, June 2, the governor’s moratorium on evictions is scheduled to end and an untold number of Lee County residents will become subject to eviction for non-payment of rent.  Moreover, food banks and pantries in Lee County are reporting a dangerous spike in people seeking food to feed their families.  Community Cooperative, for example, reported that it served more than 4000 in April, 2020, compared to 800 this time the year before. Obviously, this crisis is far from over.

While Lee County has encouraged the re-opening of many businesses and services, our community has been slow to embrace assurances that the hoped-for return to normal is safe.  Just saying it is “safe” is not enough.  Although businesses now have access to PPE, many are not requiring their use, either for customers or staff.  Positive cases are going up as the testing numbers remain stable (and on some days, actually go down).  Deaths are continuing to rise. Despite your emergency order calling for social distancing, encouraging the wearing of masks and discouraging group meetings, people remain fearful.  And it appears that the need is such that the initial $57.5 million in Covid-19 relief funds is rapidly being depleted. 

People in Lee County are stressed psychologically, financially and physically.

Women For a Better Lee recognizes the need to return to normal.  However, until residents can feel safe, until they no longer feel threatened, and until they get some financial relief, you cannot expect a return to normal.

Women For a Better Lee urges the Board of County Commissioners to use the remaining $77 million in Covid-19 relief funds to:

  • Prevent the wave of homelessness that will result from the ending of the governor’s moratorium on evictions by allocating additional, higher payments to landlords for rent.  Alternatively, we call on the BoCC to enact a local eviction moratorium until the economy picks up.  As it is, Lee County has a severe shortage of both shelter beds and affordable housing.  Where are newly-displaced people going to go?
  • Increase exponentially direct payments to childcare providers to enable women to return to work without worrying about the cost of childcare and at the same time ensure the viability of childcare businesses in Lee County; $4.5 million for childcare is simply a Band-aid and insufficient to the need.  With 35,000 children under the age of five in Lee County, that is only $128 per child. Surely not enough.
  • Increase funding to food banks and pantries to reach more residents and especially the homebound who cannot/do not get out and must rely on the goodness and generosity of neighbors and families for their food.

These unique times require unique solutions and WFBL urges the Lee County Board and the county administration to adopt innovative solutions before our situation gets out of hand and economic recovery becomes an unrealized vision.  As much as you may wish to put this all in the past, the reality is that things are only marginally better since you reopened our community and at this rate, will not improve soon with small-ball thinking.  You were elected to provide leadership, innovative thinking, and compassion.  Please do your job.

Since the original plan announced on May 19 was designated as “Phase 1,” we are eagerly looking forward to learning about Phase 2 and how you plan to allocate the remaining $77 million.

On behalf of the WFBL Steering Committee,
Connie Bennett-Martin
Bobbie D’Alessandro
Patty Duncan
Charlotte Newton
 

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

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