TAMPA, Fla. — Nonprofit organizations in the Tampa Bay area are growing concerned as emergency funding through the CARES Act is set to expire at the end of 2020. They are now urging lawmakers to act to pass a new round of stimulus measures in order to provide additional services into 2021.
Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act with overwhelming, bipartisan support. President Donald Trump signed the act into law on March 27, 2020.
The CARES Act was designed to create "fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families, and small businesses, and preserve jobs for our American industries" to help them make it through the COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout. Thousands of non-profit agencies across the country are using this money to provide services to families in need, including food and housing assistance.
"There's no business, and virtually no person right now, that hasn't been impacted by COVID," said Thomas Mantz, president and CEO of Feeding Tampa Bay. "Everybody thought perhaps in April, when we passed the original CARES Act, that maybe by the end of the year, we'd be okay. Clearly, we're not and so we're going to need additional support."
Feeding Tampa Bay is buying food at a rate they have never purchased before in the history of the organization, according to Mantz. Funding through the CARES Act made that possible.
"It can be painful to pass funding stimulus funding programs," Mantz said. "It can be expensive, but in the longer run, it's the smarter investment, we believe, in those we serve and the communities in which we live."
Across Hillsborough County, the CARES Act is helping keep families in their homes, utilities paid and small businesses afloat.
A new report from Hillsborough County shows how that money is being used, including:
Economic Recovery Financial Assistance: $94 million
Upon completion of this program, more than 6,000 local businesses will be helped at an average award of $15,000. The application window lasted over three months, from June 30 to October 15. The final checks were being mailed throughout November, according to the county report.
Housing & Utility Financial Assistance
Upon completion of two programs launched to help residents economically affected by the pandemic, over 6,500 individuals and families will have received awards averaging $6,182. Hillsborough County's application window across both programs lasted 3.5 months. Final checks for phase 2 of this program were being mailed throughout November.
Additionally, a new program is being launched to credit COVID-impacted water utility customer accounts, with $2 million to be distributed, according to the county report.
Food Relief: $7.2 million
Metropolitan Ministries, Feeding Tampa Bay, East Tampa Business & Civic Association, the United Food Bank of Plant City, and the Community Enrichment Lab have used and/or continue to use these funds to feed and deliver meals to the Tampa Bay community.
Public Health Support: $7 million
This funding has been used for contact tracing, sheltering homeless people to ensure physical distancing, purchasing PPE and operating the TGH COVID-19 Unit, and the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay
There are now roughly 10 legislative days until spending for the federal government expires, and as coronavirus cases soar around the country, the Senate returns to Washington this week with millions of Americans counting on Congress to also come to an agreement on a stimulus package.
Key Dates for Funding
- December 11: Government funding runs out at midnight.
- December 31: A slew of provisions from Families First Act, CARES Act and executive actions that the President signed in the fall sunset, including expanded family and work leave for Americans dealing with the impacts of coronavirus. This also includes the increase in the number of weeks Americans can be on unemployment, from 26 to 39.