County commission discusses CARES Act grants, contact tracing, and air purification system for the jail
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
In a Special Meeting on Monday, the Alachua County Commission considered how to distribute the $46.9 million in CARES Act funding they’ve received. The funds must be spent in line with the following restrictions:
- 1) The CARES Act funds must be used for necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (“COVID-19”);
- (2) Expenditures that will be incurred in response to COVID-19 were not accounted for in the County’s or other reimbursed entities’ budget most recently approved as of March 27, 2020 (the date of enactment of the CARES Act);
- (3) The expenditures were incurred during the period that begins on March 1, 2020, and ends on December 30, 2020; and
The money is allocated to six different categories, with $36.1 million in the biggest category, economic support, $21.1 million of which will go to individual assistance.
Requirements for the individual grants were included in the agenda (click on the image and expand to make it easier to read):
Regarding the program for businesses, Commissioner Mike Byerly said, “This part of the program is the one that causes me the most heartburn. I’m just philosophically struggling with whether or not government should attempt to make businesses whole because of an economic downturn, and that’s what we’re doing here… I don’t wish anyone ill will with their business, but if we have to pick, help the people in need more than the businesses in need might be another way to say that.”
Commissioner Marihelen Wheeler said, “Mike, to your point about paying personnel, I spoke with one of our local small business persons here who was saying that, you know, because salaries was the big issue for the businesses, making sure that they can keep their people on staff, that it would maybe make more sense, rather than giving the money to the small business, give it to the people who are working at that small business, that it would take the pressure off of the owner, you know, to keep those people on staff. If those people had the money in their pockets, then that would also take some of the pressure off businesses, especially if there’s businesses that are teetering on the edge, anyway, as you were saying… To finance a business that may not make it either way, it would be better to then put that money to the people who are actually working there so that they can continue to be a part of the team or continue even to work on, because they were getting money from another source to take care of their basic needs. Just throw that out there.”
Businesses will have to be in compliance with Alachua County’s COVID-19 emergency orders to be eligible. The County is recommending that businesses go ahead and file their 2019 tax returns so they’ll have that ready when applications are available. They also noted that grants will be taxable income to businesses but not to individuals.
Grants to governmental entities, such as municipalities or the library district, will be subrecipient agreements that will require monitoring to ensure that the money is spent on eligible items. Governmental entities will also have to follow the County’s COVID-19 emergency orders to be eligible.
While discussing how much money would be granted to the county health department, Administrator Paul Myers talked about testing and turnaround times for contact tracing. He said they’re having “a national supply chain issue. It’s not a matter of overtime, it’s not a matter of staff, it’s not a matter of machines, it’s the reagents. From the lab side of this, nobody in the country can guarantee you any sort of turn around time.
“Now, when it comes to contact tracing, we have slipped a little bit in terms of the 88% that I quoted the commission about a month ago. We’re down to about 80%. But that’s not because of the lack of effort, it’s a matter of people and the quality of the information that we get from the ordering provider… If we don’t have a good phone number, if we don’t have a good contact and demographic sheet, then those calls go unanswered, and we just can’t count that. That would not be ethical to count that in terms of investigating.”
He also said that several more labs have come online, and LabCorp is getting their turnaround time close to 48 hours.
The commission approved the plan unanimously, and applications for the individual grants are already available.
The commission then considered spending $400,000 on an air purification system for the jail, to limit the spread of COVID. That also passed unanimously.
Or we can do what Cornhole Cornell suggested by offering a “bribe” to the school board if they would just disregard the state’s mandate for starting school.
The very thing that gets his panties in a wad, local residents disregarding local draconian leadership, he suggests paying the school board do by offering funds from the CARES Act funding.
Now we understand why he and some of his authoritarian co-leaders are so supportive of agendas that are clearly not in line with those they claim to represent. Maybe someone will offer him a bribe to shut up and go away.