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Lee County has millions in CARES Act money left to spend by the end of the month

Posted at 8:04 PM, Dec 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-14 20:04:23-05

LEE COUNTY — Millions of dollars in CARES Act money still needs to be spent in Lee County.

Commissioners have until the end of the year to figure out where it’s going. Otherwise, they could have to give it back to the Federal Government.

Right now, the County may have as much as $85 million it needs to spend in the next 17 days, or it may lose it altogether. Congress could still extend the deadline, but that hasn’t happened yet.

According to the county, only about $49 million of the original $134 million has been spent so far, but Commission Chair Brian Hamman said, there are still requests for help the County is completing.

“The program shuts down today as far as taking new applications. We’ll take the last two weeks of the year to try to process all the applications we’ve received," said Hamman.

The Lee CARES program has been operating since May, so it’s not likely these new applications for assistance will cover even close to the remaining amount, but Hamman said Commissioners have a plan.

"That plan will include reimbursing public safety and our Sheriff's Office and even the municipalities for the expenses that they've had to undertake in order to help combat COVID-19 and the pandemic,” said Hamman.

That answer isn’t what Kat Duesterhaus wanted to hear.

“I first became involved with the homeless crisis in Lee County when I learned that Centennial Park was closing,” said Duesterhaus.

Duesterhaus saw those people getting removed from the park, and wanted to see if CARES Act money was being used to help them.

“Based on my public information request, Lee County has spent $156,036 for homelessness, and that number is just really small," said Duesterhaus.

Duesterhaus was also concerned when the County only covered utilities in its last round of support.

“The third round isn’t even for rent, so there are people that are going to be losing their homes. There are already people that have lost their homes in Lee County," said Duesterhaus.

But Hamman said, those people aren’t being forgotten, they just have to turn to a different funding source for support.

“The best use of funds was to use those HUD dollars to administer the mortgage assistance, as opposed to our Lee CARES program," said Hamman.

Hamman said, in addition to voting on a plan for spending the remaining CARES Act money Tuesday morning, Commissioners will also be voting to accept $2.7 million in additional funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that he said will go to homeless services.