Alachua County will receive $9 million more in state-provided COVID-19 funding, a sum on top of the $11 million it has had to work with since March.
As part of the state agreement, Alachua County had previously received only 25% of the money allocated under the CARES Act. But Alachua County commissioners on Tuesday voted unanimously to approve an amendment that would open 20% more of the total $47 million for use.
About $7 million of the first $11 million has been spent, leaving $4 million remaining before the new funding comes in.
How the new funding will be used
The Supervisor of Elections received $181,500 for vote-by-mail support for the upcoming presidential election, and the Children’s Trust of Alachua County received $216,630 — but not every funding change was so simple.
The county’s individual assistance program, which gives money to people in need due to COVID-19 difficulties, will now offer a maximum of $7,500 to applicants, instead of the previous $5,000. The commission also bumped the upcoming second wave of grants from $1,600 up to $2,000.
The qualifications to apply have also changed. The previous income cap to receive funding was $83,760 for a house of four, but the new cap is $104,700 for a house of four. That number changes based on how many people live in a house, extending up to eight.
Commissioners also gave $1.3 million to the Alachua County School Board, which received $750,000 in the first round of funding. The money will be used to train teachers in hybrid classes and virtual teaching equipment.
However, this is cut from the $3 million initially recommended and even lower than the $13 million the school board requested. County commissioners will consider giving an additional $1.7 million for personal protective equipment like masks, Wi-Fi hotspots, laptops, custodial costs and other concerns for school employees in November.
“I think the million and seven can wait,” Commissioner Ken Cornell said. “There are only a handful of counties that are funding school boards … and I very much want to help the school board, but the school board has gotten $6.8 million.”
The money won’t just be used for existing programs. The Commission established a new $6 million funding program for non-profits that directly aid Alachua County residents during the pandemic.
The grants would have to be used for operation and personnel costs for issues specific to COVID-19, like disposable food delivery and health testing, or other concerns like internet costs and shelter during cold weather. The maximum grant award is $250,000.
What was denied or delayed
Although the individual grant raises were approved for Alachua County residents, business grants were not raised, although the Commission said it would reevaluate in November.
Working Food, a nonprofit that supports local and sustainable food choices, could also receive $60,000 to deliver food to low-income residents if it can prove that this service is necessary during COVID-19.
But the question of whether or not to use CARES Act funding to help the homeless population was not so easily solved.
A proposal emerged to spend $2.5 million on a 35-unit housing complex for the homeless, but some commissioners were unsure if this cause would fit under the CARES Act, which requires that its money be spent on COVID-19 matters only.
Commissioner Charles Chesnut worried that the government could take the money back if it didn’t agree that the homeless cause was closely related to the pandemic.
“I don’t want to play with the federal government or the Treasury Department if it’s on the borderline,” he said. “I don’t think we need necessary scrutiny from the state or federal government in terms of our decision making.”
But Commissioner Mike Byerly disagreed.
“So the worst case scenario is we have to give the money back for a program that we know is important for us anyway, that in future years we’re going to be looking to fund?” he asked. “Doesn’t seem like a terrible risk, if that’s all that’s involved.”
The commission agreed to look into the property and discuss the issue further in November’s meeting.