Here’s How Escambia County Has Spent CARES Act Funds So Far; Thousands Of Applications Waiting For Approval

November 20, 2020

The Escambia County Commissioner initially set aside $3.5 million in CARES Act funds to be distributed directly to Escambia County residents in the form of direct payments. The commission later increased the amount of available funds to $16.5 million and the individual grant’s amount from $2,000 to $3,000.

According to Deputy County Administrator Chips Kirschenfeld, more than 4,900 grant applications are in the final approval stages before funding. Once these grants have been funded, an additional 600 will be approved for funding from the remaining applications. Kirschenfeld said that the county would be able to utilize all $16.5 million earmarked for this program.

Clara Long, director of Neighborhood and Human Services Department, said that approvals are continuing and anticipates the completion of the approval process for the Escambia CARES Family Assistance grant by the first week of December.

“We are working feverishly to finalize all of the applications and get the money in the hands of our citizens,” Long said. “We know this is important to those who applied, but we must do our diligence in making sure that these grants are distributed accurately. We ask that the applicants be patient and wait for a response before contacting our office. That will help us process all of the applications and get this money into the hands of our residents faster.”

Assistant County Administrator Debbie Bowers indicated that the Escambia CARES Business Assistance Grant program was continuing, with more than 80 applicants still needing review.

The grant programs are a good portion of the CARES Act funding that the county has at its disposal to assist with additional expenses or hardships related to COVID-19. In all, $18.7 million of $57.2 million is dedicated to county residents or businesses.

Along with the grants, in its continuing efforts to assist the community, Escambia County also agreed to distribute $3.65 million in funding initiatives for its citizens. Nearly $2.4 million is allocated to the Escambia Serves program, and the county has apportioned $1.25 million for rapid testing programs.

The Escambia Serves programs benefit county residents through the Feeding the Gulf Coast. Escambia County has also dedicated monies to establish and boost broadband internet service at its parks and community centers, allowing its residents to access the internet at socially distanced locations throughout the county.

Community Health Northwest Florida and Ascension Sacred Heart will be receiving $1.25 million in funding for rapid testing. Rapid testing is essential because it provides potentially infected individuals access to results much quicker so they can reliably begin the quarantine process much sooner.

The county initially received 25% percent of CARES Act money upfront from the federal government by way of the State of Florida. It has until Dec. 3 to encumber the remaining expenses.

To finalize its expenditure plan to submit to the state, the Board eliminated the FEMA Reimbursement category and reassigned more than $60,000 to the COVID Operations and Oversight category. The Board also increased the total funding for the COVID Operations and Oversight category to $400,000 to account for additional staffing needed to complete the Escambia CARES Family Assistance grant program.

The Board also authorized additional expenses to be paid by CARES Act funding:

  • A budget of up to $250,000 for the OpenGov Software Service Agreement, allowing for remote budget management
  • Expenses for the medical examiner’s office of $107,195.88 in COVID-19 related costs and $51,454.02 in salary
  • The implementation of a Human Resource Information System for the Clerk of Court and the county
  • An increase in inmate transportation services by Escambia County Sheriff from $23 to $28 per hour
  • Coronavirus relief aid in the amount of $2,204,714.40 for the City of Pensacola
  • Increase COVID-19 Operations and Oversight to $400,000

In all, the Board ratified the spending categories for the $57.3 million in CARES Act funding. In total, $30.3 million is allocated to Public Health and Safety, $19.6 million to resident and business grant programs, $3.4 million to Government Response and Compliance, $2.3 million to Escambia Serves programs, $1.25 million to Rapid Testing and $400,000 to COVID-19 Operations and Oversight.

Comments

24 Responses to “Here’s How Escambia County Has Spent CARES Act Funds So Far; Thousands Of Applications Waiting For Approval”

  1. Amanda L Miller on January 4th, 2021 3:33 pm

    CAN SOMEONE PLEASE PROVIDE THE NEXT EXPECTED DATE FOR DISPERSMENT!? I HAVE BEEN APPROVED FOR MONTHS AND NEED THIS ASSISTANCE. What is going on and why can no one answer my questions!?

  2. Anonymous Jones on December 9th, 2020 12:35 pm

    They really make it seem like it’s just one old lady in a basement hand writing all these checks. They were like oh gosh we just got so many! What exactly were you expecting? No response? We are suffering. The are printed from a machine, print them faster. I understand they all have to be documented and accounted for, I know it has to be done correctly, and we got plenty of money from the cares act to cover hiring administration to make this faster. It seems like a lot of the money has been spent on administrative fees (looks like about half a million?) but none of that translates to making the process quicker for residents to get the relief that they were promised from their government and city in SEPTEMBER. Patiently waiting for the review that should follow this program and how it was carried out. It all feels sketchy to me. And the city council is over here talking about $1.2 million putting WiFi in parks? I feel like paying rent and keeping the lights on and feeding families takes precedent over park WiFi. Which I’m still not sure how it is coming from the cares act, which is about Covid? Are they saying that poor kids that are doing remote learning will have access to the Wi-Fi? But just at parks? So in the cold? And in the rain? If you gave everyone the checks that we were supposed to get everyone would be able to pay the Wi-Fi bill. If you dispersed that $1.2 million in park Wi-Fi money to everybody, everybody would be able to afford Wi-Fi inside their homes so they don’t have to send their kid to a park bench in the WINTER to do their homework. Rich people and politicians are so out of touch it’s crazy. Investigations need to take place. This program needs to be audited and everyone involved should have an explanation ready for how and why this was such a disaster. NO OTHER county in Florida has waited this long or has this many missteps or failed deadlines.

  3. Anonymous on December 8th, 2020 12:56 pm

    Agreed. I understand the actual approval process taking longer than expected as they were swamped with so many applications to review, however, I in no way understand the hold up in getting checks cut and mailed out for the approved families. Cutting the checks should be quick and simple. They should be able to completed batches in large numbers daily. This is just awful. No other counties in Florida have had a 3 month plus process.

  4. Anonymous J on December 8th, 2020 11:57 am

    Same… I have been at the “complete” status for weeks now. I received an email on October 26th stating I was approved and my check would be mailed within 3 weeks yet here we are approx 6 weeks later and I have still yet to receive it. I get no response to any of my emails or calls which is how they tell you to contact them. Since its taking them this long I don’t understand why we can’t just go to the court clerk and pick it up. This whole covid situation hit us hard and we are in desperate need of the help and may end up getting our utilities cut off if this doesn’t come in the next couple of days, I’ve almost lost hope at this point. The check register thing they created only updates about once a week, the last day shown on it is the 30th of last month. I don’t see why they gave any kind of time frame for this since nothing was done in the amount of time they allotted. Escambia county please step up and help your citizens!!!

  5. Anonymous on December 8th, 2020 8:43 am

    I have been at approved along with completed for a month now. Status says complete, but funds dispersed still says 0. Is anyone else in the same place? I am getting so worried as I was really counting on this for rent and just to catch up utilities and such. I’m so upset.

  6. D Wells on December 8th, 2020 1:20 am

    I wanted to Thank the young ladies at Brownsville Assembly at the Church. The ladies who helped me process my documents. I got my payment right before the holidays and it really came in good use for my family! God Bless!

  7. Anonymous Jones on December 7th, 2020 10:11 am

    Looks like the Dec 6th deadline of having all checks mailed won’t be met. Why would you continue to announce deadlines you can’t meet? People are being evicted.. because this wasn’t done fast enough, people are in hotels and on the streets because of the misuse of funds, the miscommunication to the citizens of this area and the mismanagement of this program. This money was EMERGENCY RELIEF that most people probably wont get until next year. Doesn’t really seem like your mayor, your county commissioners, your city council really care about getting you help. I mean they’re fine, their rent is paid, they aren’t struggling to pay bills so who cares. People who cared would have done this in three weeks like they promised, these people are trying to find a way to use this money to benefit them the most before it helps us in any way shape or form. I think all city officials need to release their tax returns for this year and next year, because all of this feels like a misuse of federal funding and is probably very illegal. I hope you all get help somewhere, your city doesn’t care about you or me.

  8. John Doe on November 25th, 2020 2:47 pm

    @Eric…. they are processing checks just about every single working day. Now whether they actually get physically mailed every day, I would not know.

  9. HMW on November 25th, 2020 10:32 am

    I helped my mom apply back in September, but never heard anything else. I was able to check the status on the Neighborly Website

    https://myescambia.com/cares

    She was approved, but funds haven’t been dispersed yet; judging by a recent article in the PNJ, this may stretch into December as the first checks were just issued on Oct. 26th.

    Escambia County is no longer accepting applications for this program, but the FEMA program is still active until the first of December. Read about that and apply here:

    https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4564

    Hang in there and apply ASAP.

  10. Tom on November 22nd, 2020 10:45 am

    I received my check yesterday after applying back in September. What I did was check my status on the neighborly website and then wrote an email saying I have yet to receive it. After that within 3 days I had my check. So folks don’t give up, if you feel there is a problem the best course of action is to send an email which is listed on Cares FAQ.

  11. Keyater Hicks on November 21st, 2020 3:59 pm

    I was wondering whats my status i havent heard nothing no email nor phone call.I applied back in September 28, 2020.Went to the portal website it says pending additional information.Just would like to know how much longer

  12. Appaulded on November 20th, 2020 9:08 pm

    If I knew the north end of Escambia County’s internet and phone service was in the poor shape and would not get much better in 20 years I would never of built my retirement home here. Phone does not work, and when it does it’s static,can’t hear. Cell phones don’t work out here they won’t stay connect because wi-fi goes off and on. Daughter died maybe because cell would not work could not call for help. Try to do CPR or run to my house to use a landline phone and hope it works. And run back. To late. DISTRICT 5 COMMISSIONER GET SOMETHING DONE. Please do something foe the north end. Get us a working telephone and cell phone service ASAP.

  13. Good luck on November 20th, 2020 7:42 pm

    Hope!!
    That money is going in their pockets and their buddies pockets.

  14. Traci on November 20th, 2020 6:04 pm

    What is the schedule on the checks being issued. It has been way over 3 weeks and still saying under review. The phone number to talk to someone says only general information and can’t provide even any information other than what We are able to look up ourselves. I am in desperate need of the funds. Any information would be greatly appreciated

  15. Sherry Parker on November 20th, 2020 6:00 pm

    How do I find the application??? I have yet to be able to complete an application.

  16. Grace A Parfait on November 20th, 2020 5:40 pm

    How do I get application completely to get aprove

  17. CINDY JAMES on November 20th, 2020 3:06 pm

    PLEASE HELP HEALTHCARE WORKER WHO HAS HAD COVID 19. I JUST BECAME AWARE OF THIS PROGRAM IN NEED OF ASSISTANCE. STILL WORK DAILY WITH COVID & NON COVID PATIENTS EVERYDAY WITHOUT HESITANCE,
    SO PLEASE PLEASE OPEN APPLICATION FOR ME. I’VE BEEN A MEDICAL ASSISTANT FOR 29 YEARS STRONG & WILL CONTINUE TO TREAT MY COMMUNITY WITH THEIR HEALTHCARE NEEDS. THANK YOU VERY MUCH!!!!

  18. Katie on November 20th, 2020 12:28 pm

    Are they going to allow more applicants? I just recently found out about the grant and am in need but the website says the window for applications has closed! Help!

  19. Stacy Foss on November 20th, 2020 12:22 pm

    I got evicted. Now I’m living on the streets

  20. Jlb on November 20th, 2020 11:39 am

    Exactly why I didn’t vote for this…most of the money doesn’t go to help..it goes to administration..

  21. Eric Johnson on November 20th, 2020 10:51 am

    Are they sending out checks daily?

  22. Reather Johnson on November 20th, 2020 10:44 am

    Need help

  23. judy on November 20th, 2020 7:39 am

    So, a total in excess of 2 million 961 thousand 910 dollars has been spent on administration cost, before the first nickle goes out! to those who need it?!?! AND that does NOT include the increase to transport inmates? UNREAL and top heavy to say the least! Fiscally irresponsible!

  24. Aaron on November 20th, 2020 6:45 am

    Thanks to District 5 commissioner for the assistance in helping get internet to the north end, not. Maybe all that talk was just that, talk. We will remember your help.





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