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Help on the way: United Way of Central FL helping to distribute federal aid to Polk County residents

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Millions of dollars from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act will be funneled through the United Way of Central Florida before being dispersed to people in need in Polk County.

“We’re providing the [board of county commissioners] that expertise and that knowledge and that vetting process to ensure that it’s going to the best non-profits in the community,” said Christina Criser Jackson, president & CEO of United Way of Central Florida.

Polk County commissioners received $30 million from the CARES Act and are partnering with United Way to allocate $15 million of the aid to non-profit organizations.

United Way is accepting applications from non-profit organizations to receive some of the $15 million available.

The non-profits will give the funds to people who lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic for rent/mortgage assistance, utility assistance, food assistance, childcare and adult care assistance and emergency response.

The aid is capped at $2,000 per household.

The non-profit organizations must submit an “intent to apply” by Wednesday at 5 p.m. The deadline for submissions is Thursday at 5 p.m. Organizations can apply through this web portal.

“We know these partners in and out and we’ve been able to vet them in the past and we’ll continue to do that,” said Criser Jackson.

The contracts will be up for approval at the May 20th board of county commissioners meeting and can be made available to non-profit organizations following the United Way’s May 22nd board meeting, Criser Jackson said.

United Way has seen the booming demand firsthand. Its 211 call center, which refers callers to agencies and programs where they can get help, has seen a sharp rise in call volume.

“In some circumstances, we’ve increased our calls from roughly 300-500 calls a month to 3,500 – 4,000 calls a month and we expect that to increase with this additional funding,” said Criser Jackson.

The CEO tells 8 On Your Side the United Way drive-thru food distribution sites have seen hundreds more vehicles than initially planned.

“The need has been overwhelming,” she said. “We’re having to turn away a hundred, two hundred cars.”

This need has been magnified by an unemployment system that has been slow to provide benefits to people who lost their jobs.

Lakeland’s Arrin Oswald helped her mother-in-law organize ballroom dance competitions.

“It was just clarified maybe two or three weeks ago that there’s not gonna be any more competitions for the rest of the year,” she said.

Now she’s living in a home with her husband, teenage son and her in-laws.

“There’s definitely the decision – do we pay our cell phone bill or do we get our prescriptions this month?” she said. “You have to put certain things in the top of your list when you’re in these types of situations.”

The Oswalds, she said, could benefit from assistance like what’s being provided by the United Way and the county.

Residents can also apply directly to access aid later this month.

“The [board of county commissioners] has an additional $15 million that they are allocating through a call center. That’s a web portal that they’re launching on the 20th that they will be able to serve community members that can get access to WiFi and to a computer to apply,” said Criser Jackson.

The United Way of Central Florida already awarded $310,056 in grants from the United Community Relief Fund.

City of Lakeland residents who lost wages due to the pandemic can access rental assistance through the city’s website. All other Polk County residents can access that aid through the county.

Anyone in need of help should call 211.

By:  Staci DaSilva (WFLA)

Here’s what to expect when Florida enters Phase 2 of reopening: No timeline given for when that will happen.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Florida has just begun its first baby steps in reopening businesses that spent weeks closed to stop the spread of COVID-19 and already some are wondering what it will look like when the state enters the next milestone.

Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t given any kind of timeline for when phase two will begin. The first phase, which involved opening restaurants and stores at limited capacity, began May 4.

He also stressed the importance of increased testing, monitoring the positivity rate and maintaining hospital bed availability before the state can move forward in further restarting the economy.

“Phase 2 will begin after the successful conclusion of Phase 1, which includes a downward trajectory of the syndromic and epidemiology criteria while maintaining adequate health care capacity. This will occur when there is no evidence of a rebound or resurgence of COVID-19 cases and satisfies the benchmarks outlined in this Safe. Smart. Step-by-Step. plan,” documents from the governor’s office read.

Though we don’t know when phase two will happen, we do know what to expect when it does. Already, the state has laid out guidelines indicating how businesses will be able to operate.

Below are the highlights from the governor’s plan:

Vulnerable populations

Those 65 and older as well as those with underlying conditions who are most at risk of contracting COVID-19 should remain at home as much as possible. When leaving the house, they should maintain six feet of distance between themselves and others.

Social gatherings

The number of people allowed per social gathering will increase from the current 10 under phase one to 50 in phase two. Social distance should still be maintained, especially indoors or in other enclosed environments.

Non-essential travel can resume but employers are still asked to limit it.

Telework

Employers should encourage telework where it is practical but they can also start a phased approach of bringing employees back into the office. Those who do return should undergo health screenings and temperature checks, when practical.

Government meetings

These can resume in person with no more than 50 people as long as social distance can be maintained. Video conferencing is still encouraged where applicable.

Bars, pubs and nightclubs

These establishments can open and operate at 50% capacity as long as standing room is reduced and outdoor service areas are encouraged. Tables should be spaced six feet apart and bar seating should be both reduced and spread out. Tables or table groupings should include space for no more than 10 people. When possible, an employee should take drinks to tables so patrons don’t have to wait at the bar. Menus and other surfaces should be regularly cleaned and disinfected.

Restaurants

Capacity will be bumped from the current 25% to 75% with six feet of space separating parties. Groups should be limited to 10 people or fewer and indoor waiting areas should be limited. Reservations and call-ahead service will be encouraged over walk-ins and outdoor seating should remain a priority. Employees should undergo health screenings and masks should be suggested. Menus and other common surfaces should be regularly cleaned and disinfected. Cafeteria-style dining arrangements should be avoided.

Currently closed, gyms and fitness centers can open with 75% capacity at the start of phase two. Patrons should be separated by six feet and strict cleaning and sanitation protocols should be implemented. Indoor group sessions and classes can resume with limited capacity.

State parks

They can reopen for full daytime use but overnight accommodations, pavilions and some other amenities will remain closed.

Beaches

The shores will fully open with no further social distancing guidelines listed.

Large venues

Movie theaters, concert halls, auditoriums, bowling alleys, casinos, arcades and playhouses can open with strict social distancing guidelines in place and 75% capacity. Groups should be limited to 10 people or fewer and there should be six feet of space between each party. Cleaning and disinfecting should be done regularly and owners should consider conducting health screenings for employees. Masks are also encouraged.

Large sporting events and theme parks

Sporting arenas should limit capacity to 50% and develop a social distancing protocol. Theme parks should also reduce capacity, although an exact percent wasn’t provided. Disney CEO Bob Chapek recently said that masks will likely be required for guests and employees when parks open in the U.S.

Vacation rentals

Personal services businesses

Nail salons, hair salons and barbershops were originally slated to open in phase two but DeSantis has since allowed them to open with 25% capacity. Come phase two, capacity can increase to 75%. Equipment should be regularly cleaned and disinfected, everyone should wear masks and certain items like magazines and newspapers should be removed from customer service areas.

Retail businesses

Businesses can operate at no more than 75% capacity. Signage should be posted to direct the flow of traffic and promote social distancing. Surfaces and commonly touched items should be regularly cleaned and disinfected.

View the t.v. clip here.

Author: Adrienne Cutway
Copyright 2020 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.

Media Statement from Dr. Robert Redfield, CDC Director; Dr. Steve Hahn, FDA Commissioner; and Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAID Director

Media Statement
For Immediate Release: Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) have together determined that government entities working in support of the COVID-19 response efforts are providing essential services and the current guidelines for critical infrastructure workers apply. Therefore, providing that they are asymptomatic, screened, and monitored for fever and other symptoms, wear a face covering, and maintain a distance of at least six feet from others, Drs. Redfield, Hahn, and Fauci can and will participate in meetings on the White House complex when their attendance is needed.

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