On the heels of the overwhelming demand for COVID-19 housing assistance grants, Escambia County is launching a larger grant program funded from the county’s share of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Escambia County is set to start taking applications Sept. 18 for a family assistance program that will award $2,000 to those who have lost income because of COVID-19.
The program is being funded from $3.5 million of the first $14.3 million the county has received so far from the CARES Act.
The county launched a smaller grant program last week that was funded with approximately $800,000 in CARES Act funds from the Florida Housing Finance Corp.
That program stopped taking applications after just four days after nearly 900 people applied, far overrunning the available amount of funds.
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The new $3.5 million grant program will award 1,790 Escambia County households directly with $2,000 grants. The County Commission set the requirements of the grant to be available to households with income of less than $45,000 that have had a negative financial impact from COVID-19.
Applications will open online at myescambia.com/cares on Sept. 18 and run through Sept. 22. Paper applications and assistance to complete applications will be made available at multiple locations on a rotating basis, including the downtown Pensacola and Century libraries; Gull Point, Brownsville, Lexington Terrace community centers; and the Beulah Senior Center. A full list of locations and times will be made available on the county’s website.
The Escambia County Commission finalized the grant requirements during a meeting Tuesday.
The county has been working on standing up the program since late June, when it received the $14.3 million from the state of Florida through the CARES Act. The county is expected to receive an additional $43 million from the state.
The County Commission approved a budget for the first $14.3 million last week:
- Family CARES grants: $3.5 million
- Business CARES grants: $3.5 million
- Rapid testing: $1.3 million
- Escambia Serves: $1.5 million
- Public Health and Safety: $1.5 million
- General government: $1.4 million
- FEMA reimbursement: $378,530
- COVID-19 operations and oversight: $250,000
- Reserves: $850,000
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All of the funds must be spent by the end of the year, and the county is in a race to spend the money without running afoul of the law’s requirements.
The county initially hired The Integrity Group, a consulting firm, to assist in setting up a website to take applications, reviewing the county’s process for award funds and helping the county meet the state requirements to gain access to the remaining $43 million for a cost to the county of about $1 million.
Commissioners rejected that idea and scrapped the website created by the consultant. The county’s IT department stood up its own website to take applications.
During a meeting on Thursday, Commissioner Robert Bender wanted the county to use more of the consulting services for $50,000.
“There’s going be a lot more (work), I mean just making sure we’re working to try to get this other 75% (from the state), which my understanding is it’s getting a lot more difficult to do,” Bender said.
But commissioners rejected keeping the consultant’s full services and opted instead to hire the consultant for 20 hours of work totaling $2,500.
The county is administering the housing grants itself, while the business grants will be administered through the Small Business Development Center.
Commissioners will discuss the details of the business grants and when applications will begin at their meeting Sept. 17.
Requirements for family assistance grants:
- Open to Escambia County residents impacted by COVID-19
- Household income of less than $45,000
- Attestation of COVID-19 impact
- Driver’s license
- Social Security number on a federal document
- First page of 2019 IRS 1040 income tax return
- Completed IRS W-9 form
Jim Little can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and 850-208-9827.
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