Government Affairs & Lobbying Update: COVID-19

Our state and federal lobbying teams continue to closely monitor developments associated with the COVID-19 outbreak. Please reach out to us with any questions regarding the information presented below. 

STATE UPDATES

Reopening

A lot could change over the next couple of months, but as of now K-12 campuses are set to reopen in the fall.

On Thursday, Gov. Ron DeSantis and Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran outlined a plan to bring students back.

The plan puts safety first. As with business reopenings, that entails rigorous sanitization and social distancing as much as possible.

Schools will get some backup by way of CARES Act cash. The state plans to make nearly $1 billion available to schools to use for a variety of expenses, from counseling to cleaning supplies.

The largest chunk, $224 million, will be used on child care for first responders and health care workers, emergency child care relief grants, high-quality reopening support grants and the Successful Transition to Kindergarten program.

DeSantis and Corcoran both stressed the importance of resuming in-person education. The transition to online learning, while mostly successful, has left some students behind, particularly those on the other side of the digital divide.

To that end, the state is setting aside $64 million in CARES Act money for “Summer Recovery” programs.

As with other guidelines rolled out by the Governor, local authorities will have the final say on how and when they reopen schools.

“We believe what that looks like may look different in Brevard than it looks like in Miami-Dade, than it does in Baker County,” DeSantis said. “We want to empower not just the superintendents but all of the local stakeholders to be able to craft a solution that makes the most sense for that area.”

Local Funding

Earlier in the week, DeSantis gave an overview of how the state will disburse $1.275 billion in CARES Act funds meant for counties. The CARES Act included about $3.75 billion in funding for Florida counties, though most of it was sent directly to counties with populations over 500,000. The balance, meant for smaller counties, has sat in the state’s coffers for weeks.

To receive the disbursement, county governments must sign a funding agreement with the Division of Emergency Management stating it will use the fund disbursement on eligible expenditures as defined by the CARES Act; that it will repay any unused funds; and that it will submit quarterly reports to FDEM detailing how the money is being spent.

Courts

On Monday, Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Charles Canady issued a memorandum providing new guidelines for the state courts on a resumption of in-person court proceedings during the pandemic. He also amended two earlier orders about jury proceedings.

The first extends the current suspension of the statewide grand jury investigating school violence through July 26, 2020. The second governs an ongoing remote civil jury trial pilot program. It requires trial-court circuits participating in the pilot program to report findings and recommendations by October 2, 2020.

FEDERAL UPDATES

Healthcare

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance this week on how HIPAA privacy rules permit covered health care providers to contact their patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to inform them about how they can donate their blood and plasma containing antibodies to help other patients with COVID-19.

Agriculture

The USDA announced this week that it is extending the child nutrition program waiver nationwide. The nutrition programs allow local providers to continue serving free meals to all children – regardless of where they live – for the remainder of the summer.

Housing

U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced the allocation of $2.96 billion in Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG) funding to support the homeless and individuals at risk of becoming homeless as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The money can be used to make more emergency shelters available; pay for food, rent, security, maintenance, repair, fuel, equipment, insurance, utilities, furnishings, and supplies needed by shelters; provide hotel/motel vouchers to homeless; and rehouse those who have become homeless. According to the allocation list, Florida is receiving $65 million in this funding round.

WE ARE GRATEFUL FOR YOU

Our GReat client the Arnold & Winnie Palmer Foundation is partnering with Feeding Tampa Bay in providing 100,000 meals to the Valspar Championship community. This community is struggling due to the cancelation of the 2020 Valspar Championship resulting in a loss of funds for nonprofits in the Tampa Bay area.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

COVID-19 Task Force

GrayRobinson's COVID-19 Task Force is aimed at helping businesses and local governments address evolving legal and regulatory challenges and emerge stronger from the pandemic. Keep up with our Task Force updates here.