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County sets parameters for CARES housing funding

By Tim Croft
The Star

County sets cap for CARES housing assistance 

$2,000 maximum would allow county to assist 75 

With a denominator established, the county hopes to multiply that by 75. 

During a special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners last week, the board established $2,000 as the maximum grant award under grant dollars coming to the county. 

Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stability (CARES) Act, the county will realize roughly $175,000 for housing assistance for those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

That would include rental assistance, help with past-due utilities or deposits and mortgage/foreclosure assistance for eligible indivlduals who have sustained those losses since March 1 and the onset of the pandemic in this country. 

The board approved an individual maximum award of $2,000, would allow the county to assist 75 individuals. 

“If we can bring them up to date that will be a lot of help for people,” said Joe Paul, the county’s State Housing Initiatives Partnership (SHIP) program administrator. 

“We are going to do this on first-come, first-qualified, first-served basis.” 

The Apalachee Regional Planning Council will administer the program for 8 percent of the total, lower than the typical 10 percent on such grants. 

The money must be spent by Dec. 30 but commissioners pushed for rapid efficient rollout of the program. 

“I’d like to see the money to get out to people quick,” said Commissioner Phil McCroan. “As quick as we can, we need to help these people.” 

Should more than 75 people apply for funding, the BOCC would hold a lottery, per district, a process similar to that used to disburse Hurricane Housing Recovery Plan dollars. 

Staff from ARPC were to be in the county Monday and the program will be advertised in today’s newspaper, allowing 10 days for applications. 

If a lottery was required, it would likely be done at or near the board’s annual monthly meeting the final week of the month. 

“I really believe we can turn this around by the end of the month,” said Administrator Michael Hammond. 

On an entirely different subject pertaining to CARES Act funding, at the request of Commissioner Ward McDaniel the county will examine prices and availability for a rapid-test COVID-19 machine. 

New physician 

The board approved allowing the Florida Department of Health in Gulf County to lease, at fair market value, space at its Garrison Ave. facility to a physician who wishes to establish a practice in the community. 

Jim McKnight, executive director of the county Economic Development Coalition, said the health department had the space available but needed BOCC approval. 

White City boat ramp 

The county has finally hammered out all the details on a grant to renovate the White City boat ramp and the board approved advertising for contractors. 

In short strokes, the goal is to make the boat ramp more ADA accessible with the installation of floating docks, wheelchair accessible ramps and removal of a sea wall among other items. 

Grants 

The board formally accepted two grants. 

One is a hurricane loss mitigation grant totaling $190,000 from the Florida Department of Emergency Management, the dollars to be used for retro-fits and roofing for homes damaged by Hurricane Michael. 

The other was pre-approval on a $3.4 million federal Fish and Wildlife grant that, pending match dollars pledged by the state, would be used to fund a dune enhancement project. 

That project would entail the construction of “vegetation islands” along the Cape and peninsula to help slow erosion rates.