Still no CARES budget for the public to review

The public still hasn’t seen the Escambia County administration’s plan budget for the $57.3 million of CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act funds that needed to be spent before the end of this year.

Last month, Inweekly obtained a vague framework and was told a more complete plan would be made available by the end of July. We were set to do an analysis of our August 6 issue.

The county commission meets tomorrow. On the agenda is “Recommendation Concerning the Escambia CARES Act Conceptual Plan and Implementation – Janice P. Gilley, County Administrator.” 

No attachments are available for the public to review, not even the “framework.” If there is a plan, it will be passed out at the meeting without the public given an opportunity to see it before the commission vote.

Talk about lack of transparency.

Former State Rep. Dave Murzin watched how Santa Rosa County developed its CARES Act plan – hiring a consultant, conducting online surveys of citizens, small business owners and community leaders and holding virtual town halls. The plan was given to the Santa Rosa County Commission two weeks ago. He said public input was critical to the Santa Rosa County commissioners.

Murzin told Inweekly, “If a county made a decision without asking for input from people, I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing.”

Has the county administrator put the Escambia County Commission in a corner, forcing them to pass something without any details and giving her power to use funds as she wants?

In her “State of the County” interview with the Pensacola Chamber, County Adminstrator Janice Gilley was asked if there was something that maybe she wanted to share that she has been working on that chamber members would “really find beneficial as part of Escambia County.”

“Yeah, I think one of the things that is related to COVID—one of the things that we want to make sure that we do, as we continue to try and find a way to expend the dollars that the federal and the state government have provided us, is ensure that we are getting those dollars to the businesses that have been impacted but have not been able to receive funds and things like that,” Gilley replied.

“So, that’s going to be really key for the commission and our staff to try and make sure that we help those individual businesses.”

How?  The devil is always in the details, especially when its $57 million.

Inweekly’s COVID-19 Ballsy Plan put $9.54 million dollars of the first $14.7 million into the hands of households and small businesses hit hardest by the pandemic and struggling to pay their bills. Gilley’s plan only distributes $4.3 million to families and small businesses.

The impact of $9.54 million circulating locally would have have been a shot in the arm for the local economy – which is what the federal act was supposed to do.

Inweekly recommended grants up to $3,400 each to households that earn less than 120% of the area median income for the size of their household. The $4.77 million would be given to non-profits like United Way, Catholic Charities and United Ministries to handle the application process.

Another $4.77 million would go into a Small Business Assistance Fund for grants up to $10,000 each. The University of West Florida Small Business Development Center can administer the program, but the review panel shouldn’t be the usual group of bankers for SBDC. We would prefer a more diverse and community-minded selection committee similar to the one used by the Studer Community Institute.

The Gilley plan doesn’t state specific grants amounts or break out how much of the $4.3 million with be divided between families and businesses Her income limits are 80% of median household incomes — eliminating a large portion of the community from receiving help.

Her grants are for businesses with those with 25 employees or less -“small retail, salons, non-essential businesses, daycares.”

Inweekly placed a priority on local small businesses that been shut down, like bars, breweries and music venues, and those with less than 10 employees that have not received any federal or state funds or grants from Gulf Power or other entities.

Gilley also wants to use $3.6 million for food delivery, homeless care, childcare vouchers to be processed by Early Learning Coalition. However, she will need to show where the funding gaps exist in current programs, particularly with schools reopening and providing food.


Gilley Inweekly
Total for families and businesses $3.6 million $9.4 million
Limit on median household income 80% 120%
Household grant unknown up to $3400
Small Business  grant unknown up to $10K
Number of employees 0-25 0-10
PPE for buinesses unknown 5000 kits
Public Health & Safety $3.6 million $4.7 million
Food delivery, homeless, childcare $3.6 million None
County Government $4.13 million None

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