On March 27, 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, known as the CARES Act, was signed into law. The Act created the Coronavirus Relief Fund, which provides $150 billion in assistance for state and local governments for disbursement in communities to support small businesses, individuals, and community resources affected by the economic impacts of COVID-19.
The State of Florida received $8.32 billion in CARES Act funding. Florida counties with a population of at least 500,000 received assistance directly from the United States Treasury Department. Florida local governments with populations less than 500,000, including Seminole County and 54 other Florida counties, received their CARES disbursements through the State of Florida’s Department of Emergency Management.
Seminole County was allocated $82,328,650 in CARES funds and received an initial disbursement of $20,582,500 from the State on July 1, 2020. A second disbursement of $16,466,000 was transmitted in September.
Pursuant to the U.S. Treasury, any use of CARES Act funding had to comply with the following criteria:
At its June 23, 2020 meeting, the Board of County Commissioners authorized the County’s $82.3 million COVID-19 relief and financial assistance plan. The plan was executed by staff over the following six months, with the program concluding on December 31, 2020. The Board designated funding support to five key areas: small business grants; individual assistance grants; not-for-profits grants; public health, safety and service support; and special economic recovery initiatives.
Seminole CARES is the largest aid program in the County’s history, providing grants to keep small businesses afloat, help residents stay in their homes, and assist not-for-profit agencies with meeting the increased demands for vital services. In less than six months, with no previous administrative infrastructure in place, County staff endeavored to manage the unprecedented task of quickly distributing millions of dollars in relief while navigating stringent and evolving federal rules that complicated the process.
In order to put CARES Act monies in the hands of the people that needed it most, Seminole County contracted with Ernst & Young to implement the Seminole CARES Grant Portal through which small business and individual assistance applicants could request funding. The County coordinated with its seven cities, five Constitutional Officers, and 45 not-for-profit organizations to ensure funding was available to support social distancing mitigation efforts, technology needs, and other initiatives directly related to alleviating the spread and impacts of COVID-19. Funds were provided to Seminole County Public Schools to allow for implementation of additional protective measures and remote technologies for the students and faculty. With Central Florida leading the state in unemployment due to hospitality industry impacts, a marketing campaign was launched to reinvigorate tourism in the region. Funds were also committed to Seminole State College for workforce training initiatives.