BY ROGER DESJARLAIS – I want to thank Lee County’s residents for your perseverance during these difficult times. I also want to thank our Lee County employees who have stepped up to the challenge of what all public servants are tasked to do in times of great need – serve the community.
You know many of these employees; they are your neighbors. Paramedics and Emergency Medical Technicians are on the front lines of the COVID-19 response every day. Our Emergency Management personnel have distributed much needed personal protective equipment (PPE) to assisted living facilities and public safety personnel throughout the county. Transit drivers continue to serve. Parks & Recreation employees are running summer camps so parents can get back to work.
Additionally, on May 12, the Board of Lee County Commissioners directed county staff to implement assistance programs for families and businesses within two weeks. The day after Memorial Day, the county launched a massive aid effort called LEECares. As you can imagine we had to prepare for literally thousands of calls that first week. We had to train staff and deploy new technology to process applications and make payments.
To do that, the county assigned 150 employees from throughout our departments – including bus drivers, librarians, recreation specialists, human services social workers and fiscal managers – to operate two call centers and a payment processing system that included Lee County Clerk employees.
Not only were the programs opened in two weeks, this is what has been accomplished in the last 10 weeks:
• Families – $11 million approved for assistance with mortgages, rents, and utilities.
• Businesses – $6.3 million for relaunch assistance and millions more now available to rehire workers.
• PPE – more than 4.2 million items (face masks, sanitizer, gloves) distributed to assisted living facilities, businesses and cities.
• Food Security – $3 million to local food banks and pantries.
• Childcare – $4.5 million for scholarships and facility sanitation.
As the COVID-19 crisis continues, the Board of County Commissioners recognizes that this assistance must continue and be enhanced. This week the county commission approved a second round of individual and business assistance.
Families who applied before can apply again for a new round of assistance of up to $3,000 for rent, mortgage and utility payment beginning Aug. 17. Businesses can receive up to $8,000 per employee rehired. Child care scholarships have been doubled to $2,500 per student to allow for enrollment in after-school programs this Fall.
Go to Leeflcares.com to learn about all the assistance available and how to submit an application. I am proud of the county’s residents and employees. Everyone has demonstrated a “can do” attitude during these trying times.
Please keep yourself safe, and know that your local government and its employees are here to help.
Roger Desjarlais is the Lee County Manager