The Osceola County Commission approved a plan to spend up to $65.5 million in funding from the Federal CARES Act during a meeting to extend the County’s emergency declaration on Monday.
The state is releasing the funds – which must be distributed by Dec. 30, 2020 – in phases. The county is waiting for the first distribution -- 25 percent or $16. 3 million -- to funnel into programs to assist businesses and residents impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have been delayed compared to larger counties because of the way the funding was funneled through the State. This delay will make it harder to serve our residents but I am confident we can get this done and make a difference in many lives,” said Osceola Commission Chairwoman Viviana Janer. “We realize that it is imperative to move forward as quickly as possible and will focus on getting these badly needed dollars into the hands of our citizens sooner rather than later they can have a sense of security during these uncertain times.”
Of the $16.3 million in the initial disbursement, 70 percent will be used for rental/mortgage assistance, 20 percent for small business assistance and 10 percent for food insecurity assistance.
That means that under the plan approved Monday, Human Services will receive $13 million for rental and mortgage assistance, and for food insecurity assistance. An allocation of $3.2 million will go to Economic Development for small business assistance.
The remainder of $49 million will go into an account for potential future reimbursement of programs targeted to assist individuals and businesses.
The pandemic has savaged the county’s economy. With theme parks and other tourism businesses shuttered or operating at reduced capacity, Osceola has the highest unemployment rate in the state – 31.1 percent in numbers made available last week.
Osceola has had to wait approximately two months for Gov. Ron DeSantis to release the funds. Other counties, with a population of more than 500,000 received the money directly from Washington. For example, for many weeks Orange County (which received $243 million) has offered residents housing assistance and business assistance with its CARES Act funds.
Osceola has used CDBG grants to offer rental assistance – but demand has exceeded funding in previous rounds. Another round of 500 applications using CDBG funds is scheduled for July 6. Meanwhile, the Osceola County Emergency Economic Relief Grant Program funded at $500,000 from an economic development fund is ongoing to help businesses with 25 or fewer employees. Go to www.weveopenedsafely.com/grant-program/ for more information, including the application.