The Oviedo City Council discussed how to spend the nearly $21 million allocated in federal COVID-19 relief funding during Monday night’s work session.
The city received the first of two $10.4 million installments from the federal government’s American Recovery Plan Act on Oct. 2 along with rules for how the money can be spent. City Manager Bryan Cobb said during the meeting that many things about these funds can change, including the amount awarded in the second installment, when the second installment will be provided (it’s expected in 2022), and the rules surrounding spending the money.
The Council directed city staff to create a budget that they will vote on at a later date. The budget will include the following possible expenditures (see the full budget below):
- $7.4 million to recover both experienced and expected revenue loss from 2020 to 2024 (If losses are less than expected, the money can be reallocated.)
- $950,000 to replace ventilation systems in city buildings, including the Oviedo Aquatic Center
- $2 million for a new city employee health clinic to replace the 10-year-old CareHere Clinic
- $650,000 in recouped medical expenses, employee leave time due to illness or quarantine, and public health and safety payroll
- $180,000 for a new electronic plan submittal and review system, which will limit personal contact when plans are submitted to the city as a COVID-19 safety precaution.
- $7.5 million in water and sewer infrastructure improvements
Also on the list is Oviedo’s $1.2 million contribution to Seminole County’s ARPA-funded programs that would help address social issues exacerbated by the pandemic, including mental health, substance abuse and homelessness. The county programs will also fund nonprofits who serve the area and qualifying small businesses. Seminole County has been allocated $91.6 million in ARPA funding.
Cobb said it makes more sense to address these issues through the county, which has established rental assistance and substance abuse programs. Seminole’s Rescue Outreach Mission is the only emergency homeless shelter in the county.
The county is asking all cities within Seminole County to contribute to these assistance programs, with the requested dollars varying depending on population and how much they received from the federal government.
The city will hold off on sending the $1.2 million to Seminole until it gets the second round of federal funding. That means that some of the assistance for qualifying Oviedo residents will not be available until that contribution is made.
Deputy Mayor Bob Pollack said the city had an issue with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) requesting back money it paid the city after Hurricane Charley.
“Because of that experience, we want to make sure to spend it properly,” he said.
Seminole County Manager Nicole Guillet said there is existing funding for low-income residents in need countywide but this new funding will help qualifying moderate-income residents with rental, mortgage and utility assistance. Only unincorporated Seminole County residents can get that assistance until the city chips in with the county. For more information on the help available for low-income residents, click here.
Cobb said the money Oviedo would contribute would be carefully tracked to ensure that it’s helping city residents, with the exception of the contribution to nonprofits. Oviedo’s funds that go unused by its residents will be returned to the city.
The county has allocated $14.7 million from their COVID-19 relief funding for stormwater and high-speed Internet improvements. For Internet improvements, the county is planning a study to identify service gaps in unserved or underserved communities. The City of Oviedo has been working with several Internet providers to get low-cost, high-speed Internet into low-income neighborhoods as well as city parks.
Cobb said participating in the county’s study would aid this effort. Guillet said she expects to move forward with the study quickly so that if more funding for providing access becomes available they can proceed.
Deb Jepson heads the Oviedo Citizens in Action committee that’s been working with the city to improve Internet access, primarily to the Seminole County Housing Authority apartments behind Jackson Heights Middle School and Round Lake Park.
“To have a professional study done is important because none of us really know without a study what the needs are,” she said.
Jepson is concerned that if the city does not move forward with participating in the study soon, it could miss the opportunity. Seminole County officials did not return an inquiry about a study deadline before press time.