Florida will distribute $1.3 billion in federal assistance from the CARES Act to the state’s smallest counties.
On Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM) would begin dispersing funds to counties with fewer than half a million residents. Counties above that threshold already received $2.5 billion from the United States Treasury.
“Starting in March when we initiated our response to COVID-19, we knew that the only way to keep Floridians safe was to work closely with our partners at the local level,” DeSantis said in a press release. “As we have reopened in a safe, smart, step-by-step way, we have had local support at every juncture.”
“I’m proud that today, we are able to provide funding back to these counties, so that they can really begin their recovery from this virus,” he added. “We thank President Trump and our federal partners for providing this relief to Florida.”
DEM will start by giving qualifying counties 25% of their allocated funds. Additionally, those counties must use those funds on eligible expenditures for battling COVID-19, submit the division a quarterly report on how those dollars have and will be spent and return unused funds to the state.
“From the beginning of this administration, we have shown our commitment to cutting red tape and getting funding out the door, as demonstrated by paying out more than $2.4 billion in hurricane recovery funding since January 2019, and more than $450 million since March 15,” said DEM Director Jared Moskowitz. “Throughout our COVID-19 response, we have once again used every available resource to keep Floridians safe and support our local partners. We are ready to hit the ground running on this CARES Act funding, which we know will be a critical resource to Florida’s recovery.”
Counties may also submit a request to DEM for additional funds in excess of their initial distribution on a reimbursement basis for eligible expenditures.
The $1.3 billion will come from the $5.9 billion in CARES Act funds that had gone unused since the state received those installments. The state awaits guidance and clarification from the federal government on how to spend the remaining dollars, which generally can only be used on expenses incurred between March 1 and Dec. 30 that were not accounted for in budgets adopted by March 27.
The $2.5 billion already dispersed to larger counties came directly from the U.S. Treasury. In total, the state and local governments have received about $8.3 billion through the CARES Act.
The Florida League of Cities highlighted the distribution in a statement Wednesday despite also saying they had advocated for cities to receive those funds directly instead of the funds taking a layover in the counties.
“Florida’s cities, towns and villages are facing serious and unexpected financial impacts due to COVID-19, which threaten public health, safety and essential services if left unaddressed,” a spokesperson said.