City passes GNVCares, asks county to support vote-by-mail and facial covering mandate


At the Gainesville City Commission meeting this afternoon, the commission passed their GNVCares program and asked the County Commission to send absentee ballots to every voter and mandate facial coverings.

In a discussion about COVID-19 Emergency Orders and Reopening Plans, Mayor Lauren Poe said he liked State Senator Rob Bradley’s approach. Commissioner Harvey Ward proposed a Public Health Advisory Panel, but he didn’t get support from the rest of the commission.

The commission voted to send a letter to the County Commission and to the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections, asking them to send absentee ballots to all registered voters for the August election. They also voted to send a letter to the County Commission, asking them to mandate “facial coverings” in places where people “are not able to socially distance.”

The GNVCares motions were convoluted (near the end of the discussion, Commissioner Harvey Ward said, “I would like to be able tonight, when we’re done, to disseminate what we have done, but I ain’t real clear”), the screen was hard to read, and it wasn’t always clear that the commissioners understood what they were voting for.

Here’s what we think passed (the language is theirs):

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  • Only businesses that have not received Payroll Protection Program funds and/or SBA Disaster Assistance in response to the Coronavirus funds are eligible.
  • This funding should be reimbursed by the State to the City, should funds be allocated from the State to local government for COVID-19 relief (oddly, Commissioners Harvey Ward and Adrian Hayes-Santos voted against this one).
  • There should be an open timeframe (5 days) for all applications to be received and then evaluated, rather than on a first come, first serve basis.
  • Although this will not be used for evaluation purposes, specific data will be collected on all applications: 1. Number of people in household. 2. Race/ethnicity. 3. Gender. 4. Primary and secondary language. 5. Disability status. 6. Veteran status.
  • Staff will work with Human Rights Coalition (HRC) and Rural Women’s Health Project to find a way to find funds to work with our undocumented community.
  • Immigration status or source of income will not disqualify an applicant from receiving city unrestricted funds (but, as Nathan Skop pointed out during public comment, they didn’t explain how they would ensure that federal and state funds did not go to undocumented persons, as is prohibited by law).
  • All businesses receiving funding should place GNVCares signage in their window.
  • The funding will be split 50/50 between GNVCares About Neighbors and GNVCares About Businesses.

Mayor Poe explained that the consultant will evaluate whether an application meets the minimum criteria; all the applications that meet the minimum criteria will go to a panel with people from different City departments; then they will make a recommendation to the City Manager, who will make the final decisions on who gets the grants.