Miami-Dade Delays in Handing Out CARES Act Money for COVID Help
A month ago, Roland Baker said he submitted a request for a county grant of $ 25,000 to help his Miami cafe survive slump in sales during the COVID-19 economic downturn.
Like most people who applied to the federally funded Miami-Dade County program Grants program for the hospitality industry, Baker did not receive a check. This week, Mayor Carlos Gimenez’s administration said of the $ 30 million from the CARES Act set aside to help restaurants in the county, only $ 407,312 has been paid.
“I emailed them on Monday, and they said it was still under review,” Baker said Thursday. Sales are down by about a third to its Vice City Bean on Northeast 17th Street in Miami’s Arts and Entertainment District, an area once known as Omni. “Anything they can do to support us helps us survive. ”
Baker’s wait for a county allowance captures a running theme as local, state and federal agencies scramble to quickly distribute large sums of federal aid designed to end up in the pockets of workers and business owners. .
Complications in paying CARES money
As Miami-Dade and Gimenez County Commissioners quickly agreed on the categories set to receive the $ 474 million CARES allocation from Tallahassee County and Washington, disbursing the dollars became more complicated. .
“It just takes time to speed up programs and overcome all obstacles,” said Ed Marquez, the deputy mayor who oversees the distribution of CARES Act for Miami-Dade. “It’s not just apps. This is the afterthought documentation.
A recent presentation by Marquez showed that Miami-Dade contributed about 7% of the $ 153 million allocated to the county’s relief programs for businesses and individuals. The $ 10.9 million listed as disbursed under assistance programs includes $ 1.5 million in emergency small business loans from a $ 25 million fund. About $ 28 million in claims have been received and are under review, according to the submission.
The program that paid off the fastest was the Miami-Dade emergency rental assistance program, which was launched in July. The commissioners have allocated $ 10 million in CARES money to the program, administered by the county’s Department of Public Housing and Community Development.
So far, about half of the money has gone to cover part of the rent for low and moderate income people who were financially injured by COVID-19. The application window opened on July 14 and closed 10 days later. Marquez said about $ 5 million has been paid to landlords to cover missed rent payments.
More rent relief outside city limits
Miami-Dade extends rental assistance. At Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners approved another $ 5 million fund earmarked for tenants living outside city limits.
This program is designed to replicate the rent relief programs that cities can create for their residents and landlords using the $ 100 million from CARES, the county set aside for municipalities.
The county also announced this week a $ 10 million fund which allows landlords to apply directly to cover up to three months of missed rent from tenants who are struggling with COVID. Covered rent payments must be canceled once the landlord accepts the CARES money.
Housing advocates say missed rent payments have become so prevalent during the spike in unemployment due to the COVID-19 pandemic that county relief programs for tenants will fall short of demand. This has drawn criticism for delays in disbursing funds from the program launched in July.
“I would have expected the money to dry up months ago,” said Adrian Madriz, a housing organizer at the Miami Workers Center.
Michael Liu, the county’s housing director, said the department was inundated with requests for rent relief, but about half of the people were unqualified or failed to provide the necessary documents.
He said about $ 4.5 million has not yet been claimed and the county will be launching a second round of requests for rent relief in the coming weeks. “We’re going to do a little more case management to qualify more people,” he said.
Liu said the county received 10,000 applications and approved 4,000. He expects even more interest in the fall because
Washington is no longer providing an extra $ 600 weekly boost to unemployment checks, money it says covered rent for a significant number of households. “There will be more people in need,” he said.
Federal rules require that CARES dollars be distributed by December 31, or that local governments return unspent money. Marquez said that would not happen. “We are going to spend all the money,” he said.
With most of the unspent allocated funds, Miami-Dade does not have a comprehensive measure of which programs will have remaining funds that could be reallocated to other needs.
In July, the Miami-Dade commissioners authorized the United Way to distribute approximately $ 20 million in CARES cash pay certain living expenses for needy families throughout the county. Marquez’s presentation showed that about $ 2.9 million had been distributed, or about 15 cents for every dollar allocated.
Advocates for working people and low-income residents said they were stunned when Miami-Dade this week approved $ 5 million in CARES cash for a tourism campaign.
Commissioners unanimously approved the award on Tuesday. The item sponsored by Commissioner Dennis Moss was a last minute bill that was not on the published agenda.
Miami-Dade Spends $ 5 Million From CARES Act On Travel Ads
He donates over $ 5 million in CARES cash to the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau. He will finance a project Miami Land campaign use the county’s parks and natural attractions to attract tourists during the COVID pandemic.
Hotel taxes fund the county tourism bureau, which is expected to receive an additional $ 25 million in county hotel and food taxes as part of the 2021 budget approved by commissioners on Thursday. The 2021 budget year begins on October 1.
“It’s infuriating,” said Alana Greer, director of the Community Justice Project and advocate for the rent relief program, of the $ 5 million for the tourism campaign. “We definitely need to invest in our local economy now. But we have small businesses and individual residents who are in desperate need of help. We need to let them know. “
Commissioner Rebeca Sosa said she supports the use of CARES money to help the economy.
“If this is something that is going to help businesses that have suffered so much and help people who need jobs, I’m happy about it,” she said.
Miami-Dade has set up two programs with allowances for workers. The $ 5 million relief fund for catering employees paid about $ 400,000, according to the county report, and no payment amount was shown for the $ 3 million program for laid-off hotel workers.
The program requires workers to register for a one-day job search skills webinar, and the county report said 569 people had signed up. since the option is available in August. When completed, workers receive an allowance of $ 1,000, which would represent a total payment of $ 569,000.
With around 2,500 training places available, the low enrollment rate is a frustrating measure, said Wendi Walsh, administrator of the Unite Here union, which represents hospitality workers. “It’s crazy,” she said. “We have more than 1,000 people made redundant Fontainebleau alone.”
For Baker, Miami-Dade’s COVID economy has been a crisis for his coffee business. The store only takes about 66 cents for every dollar it sold a year ago, and Baker said Vice City Bean was only able to stay afloat thanks to a cut in payroll by a employed for much of the year.
Now the business is on a better footing. Vice City have recalled their staff and are looking to replace those who have moved in the meantime. “In fact, we are in the process of recruiting,” he said.
Baker said the Miami-Dade grant would help cushion the brunt of lost revenue and cover the kind of irregular expenses that keep coming in, like a recent $ 1,000 repair bill for a door.
David Foulquier said he closed his Fooq’s restaurant near downtown Miami after nearby racial justice protests depressed business even further after weeks of COVD decline. “Sales have taken a nosedive,” he said.
Folquier said he applied for the county program within hours of its launch and learned he qualified for $ 25,000 but had not yet received a check. He said he was not happy with the wait, but was confident the money would arrive.
“I have to give it to Miami-Dade to even deliver that,” he said. “At least they’re trying.
Miami Herald editor-in-chief Carlos Frías contributed to this report.