Seminole County will pay up to three months of rent or mortgage, along with utilities, to residents struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic, officials said on Wednesday as they announced more details of a $20 million assistance program the county will launch in the coming weeks.
“We’re very anxious to roll this out,” Commission Chairman Jay Zembower said during a press conference. “We understand that individuals and businesses are hurting.”
Seminole health officials also said that they are starting to see evidence that the spread of the coronavirus is beginning to slow as the percentage of positive cases of those tested has dropped from 13% in early July to just under 10% this week in the county. On Tuesday, Seminole reported 116 new cases of coronavirus, a 51% drop from the 238 cases reported on July 12.
“We are seeing some stabilization,” said Donna Walsh, Seminole’s officer for the Florida Department of Health. “So we are cautiously optimistic…. And hopefully these numbers will come down even more.”
Even though on Wednesday there were 177 patients with COVID-19 in Seminole hospitals — a drop of nearly 190 patients in the first week of July — county health officials said residents should feel comfortable visiting an area medical facility if they need care for any reason.
“The hospitals are busy, but they are ready to accept individuals,” said Alan Harris, Seminole’s emergency management director. “We want you to go to the hospitals. The hospitals are equipped to deal with this. You should feel very comfortable and safe going to a hospital. They are cleaner than ever.”
The county plans to start handing out grants from the $20 million in federal aid for families and business by mid-August. The county will start accepting applications through a portal on its web site at www.seminolecountyfl.gov
Of those funds, $7 million will go toward helping residents pay three months of their rent or mortgage, and three months of their utility bills, up to $5,000.
The money will help residents who have lost their jobs or faced a reduction in their work hours “bridge financial gaps between rent, mortgage or any eligible utilities,” Zembower said.
The county also has earmarked $10 million for businesses. The money will be distributed as follows: $5,000 grants will be awarded to home-based or mobile businesses that have one employee; $10,000 to businesses with two and up to 25 employees; and $15,000 to businesses with 26 to 50 workers.
For non-profit organizations, Seminole has earmarked $3 million.
The $20 million is about a quarter of the $82 million total the county stands to receive in CARES Act relief funding.
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