In a time when resources need to be prioritized, GNV Cares package should focus on those in the most need

I should be overjoyed about the GNVCares package that was passed last week. 

I’m not and here’s why. 

With every decision, every dollar, every conversation we have during this crisis, leadership has the opportunity to prioritize the most marginalized and vulnerable in our community. 

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Gail Johnson

Right now, we can, in partnership with the County, house our homeless. We can assist people with utility bills, rent, food and necessities that allow us to physically distance so that we can keep our entire community safe. That is where our relief efforts should be focused.

In a time when resources need to be prioritized, we should focus on those in the most need. 

In the current version of GNVCares, for every one dollar of relief a family/individual gets, a business gets four.

In my estimation, that is NOT prioritizing those most in need. This economy, our city, is fragile and buckling under the weight of people’s urgent needs in this moment. 

Individuals and families have lost jobs and still haven’t been able to get unemployment; many have been threatened with eviction and need to keep a roof over their heads; many need to keep food on the table. It is individuals and families that have businesses that have suffered, and they need income to personally survive.

Although I don’t have a crystal ball, I am certain of one thing. We will not be going back to “normal” or business as usual any time within the next few months. There is a new normal we are adjusting to while this new economy is emerging. Ways of working, learning, parenting, worshipping, shopping, and the way we do business has changed in a matter of weeks. 

It continues to change as we are presented with new information daily.

As a city with 60 percent of our property off of the tax rolls, we have to be smart with all of our resources so that we are helping those most in need, while rebuilding a sustainable future for our city.

And we will have to rebuild.

At this time, I believe there are too many unknown variables for local government to step in and reallocate City money to sustain businesses, when the need is so great for families and individuals. I do recognize that this could change with allocations from the State of Florida expressly for this purpose. 

We don’t know how long this pandemic will last. We don’t know when consumer confidence will return. We don’t know when testing will be widely available so that people will feel safe being outside of their homes. We don’t know the effect that this will have on the University and how many students will be returning in the fall. 

These are real and very valid concerns which will have prolonged implications for our economy and the small business landscape. 

In keeping with prioritizing people and families most in need, including business owners that are suffering, my preference would have been a tiered approach to include additional money for those that own businesses. They could then make the decision to use the funds to sustain themselves/families and/or their business.

My preference would have been to provide technical assistance to struggling businesses to help them figure out how to become sustainable in these uncertain times, and then be there for them with financial assistance when we have better data.

Unfortunately, I believe the ship has sailed on GNVCares, but I do believe a few changes are possible that will improve the program. I will ask for these changes today at the Commission meeting at 3:00pm 

1.Only businesses that have not received Payroll Protection funds are eligible

2. This funding should be reimbursed by the state or federal government to the City should future funds be allocated to local government for Covid 19 relief.

3. There should be an open timeframe for all applications to be received and then evaluated, rather than on a first come, first serve basis.

4. Although this will not be used for evaluation purposes, I will ask that this specific data is collected on all applications: 1. Number of people in household 2. Race/Ethnicity 3.Gender 4. Primary and Secondary language 5. Disability status 6. Veteran status 

5. Demonstrate a strong chance of remaining open post-COVID-19. The application should include a description of the impact of COVID-19 on the business, and a recovery plan.

6. Prioritization of businesses located in a ZIP code with a high poverty rate. 

7.Operated consistently for two years or more

8. An appeal process for businesses

Our superpower as a team, as a Commission, is our diversity of thought, what we care about, people we know, and life experience that engender well rounded decision making. When all of us are able to give input from the beginning, for some of the most important decisions we will make as leaders, our entire community will be better off. 

The future is what we build together.

Tune in today at 3:00pm as we discuss:

1. Equity Budget discussion

2. Covid-19 Emergency Orders and Reopening Plans

3. Establishment of a fuel hedging policy

4. County’s Charter Amendments

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