Submitted by Osceola County
As 2021 begins, the Osceola County board of county commissioners said they continue to assist residents and businesses impacted on a daily basis by COVID-19.
At a press conference on Thursday, Osceola Commission Chairman Brandon Arrington noted that the number of cases and the rate of positive test results continue to increase as the latest reports from the Florida Department of Health show total cases reported in Osceola exceeding 27,000.
“Osceola County and the County Commission have never stopped working, and know that we will continue to take action to address needs that have arisen from the pandemic, with assistance programs for residents and businesses, food insecurity support and more. We already directed millions of dollars of Coronavirus Relief Funds to businesses and residents in an effort to protect their health, safety and welfare,” Arrington said. “We received several million additional dollars for housing assistance this week.”
He added, “We are working hand-in-hand with the Department of Health-Osceola to begin community vaccinations, even as testing continues. Unfortunately, the state and Federal rollout of the vaccines has been a nightmare. Having the vaccines was just a beginning point to fighting this virus. Now, we have to get them into the arms of residents.”
Arrington said that even with the vaccine becoming available, everyone in the community must to continue to make wise choices for our health by wearing face coverings, observing social distancing, including avoiding large gatherings of people, and practicing good personal hygiene.
He also noted that COVID-19 has taken the lives of 305 residents in Osceola County.
“Those people are someone’s neighbor, someone’s co-worker, someone’s family member and they can never be replaced. We mourn them all.”
As the holiday season began last year, the Osceola Board of County Commissioners established a COVID-19 Education and Compliance Task Force to visit businesses in an effort to provide information and resources to help them operate safely, as well as assist with providing PPE or other health safety supplies.
·In December, the task force focused on the West 192 area, the county’s major tourism sector. Members visited 978 businesses. Only about 1 percent have needed follow-ups, whether to ensure safety measures or to provide other business assistance information.
·The task force will continue to focus on the tourist corridor before moving on to other target locations.
The Board of County Commissioners has also worked tirelessly to support residents and businesses that have suffered financially during the pandemic, a press release stated. Osceola strategically decided to revise its plan for the $65.5 million in CARES Act funding it received to allow our assistance programs to continue into this New Year.
For the business community, the county has continued our grant program, after increasing the grant amounts and simplifying the process to apply in Round 2 of the program, which began in mid-December.
·As of Dec. 31, there have been 13 grant applications paid, for a total of $125,000. Another 70 applications have been approved and are in queue for payment.
·That follows round 1, where 572 applications were approved for a total of $3.4 million awarded.
·The Commercial Utility Program mitigates the hardship of businesses with past-due utilities, supporting a total of 243 business with approximately $400,000 to bring their accounts current with Kissimmee Utility Authority and Toho Water.
·If your business was negatively affected by the pandemic, visit our grant program at We’ve Opened Safely dot com (www.weveopenedsafely.com) to find the information to get help.
·Meanwhile, Osceola continues helping our residents with rental and mortgage foreclosure prevention in 2021.
· Since last April, the county has received more than 16,000 applications for assistance. We’ve been able to approve aid for 2,188 households, providing $12.6 million in financial support to keep residents in their homes.
· Funds are still available to assist our residents. If you have previously applied and have been denied or still need help, you should reapply.
·The Utility Assistance program continues to assist residents who have been unable to pay their electric, gas or water bills. A total of 822 payments have been approved, totaling nearly $453,000. Funding is still also available for this assistance, so if you need help please apply. Visit housing.osceola.org for more information on all of these programs.