Facing heavy criticism from residents and business owners, Sarasota County is adjusting its requirements for businesses and individuals to receive coronavirus relief.
After opening applications Sept. 16, making it one of the last Florida counties of its size to do so — Manatee County opened its in July — many residents were thrown by the complex application process, according to a story in the Sarasota Observer, sister paper of the Business Observer. To date, the county has received 1,463 phone calls about the process, and that doesn’t include local organizations sharing the burden, such as the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce and the Argus Foundation.
Originally, county officials said the slow pace allowed Sarasota County to learn from systems already in place in other counties and position the county to protect itself from misspending. But critics, at a county commission meeting and in social media posts, say the slow place goes against the intent of the relief funds.
“We’ve reached D-day. We can’t wait any longer,” Argus Foundation Executive Director Christine Robinson said during a late September meeting. “… You need to make some decisions, and you need to make them today, and you need to make sure that they're firm, and that we get this money out into the community because it's not getting out into the community.”
The county will now model its application process off of Manatee County’s. Previously, as a risk-protection measure, the county required those impacted by COVID-19 to provide documents and multiple receipts proving the impact. Now, however, they will attest to what their impacts are and fill out an online questionnaire with the dollar amount of the impact.
Additionally, the county will now increase the amount of aid small businesses can receive. Previously, businesses could receive grants up to $20,000, but that number has been increased to $50,000.