Fewer snags in ap­ply­ing for re­lief

County per­formed bet­ter, but the por­tal was open less than an hour.

Orlando Sentinel - - Front Page - By Stephen Hu­dak

Or­ange County per­formed bet­ter on its third at­tempt to hand out $1,000 coro­n­avirus re­lief checks to fam­i­lies on Mon­day morn­ing, but the por­tal for peo­ple to ap­ply for the money was still open less than an hour.

The sys­tem opened at 8 a.m. and closed 53 min­utes later af­ter re­ceiv­ing 25,000 com­pleted or par­tial ap­pli­ca­tions, said Randy Singh, deputy county man­ager for fis­cal and ad­min­is­tra­tion ser­vices. About 11,000 of those ap­pli­cants were in the process of up­load­ing their iden­ti­fi­ca­tion or other doc­u­ments re­quired to prove el­i­gi­bil­ity.

Last week’s botched launches of the pro­gram frus­trated thou­sands of peo­ple on June 8 and 9 when the sys­tem was over­whelmed just min­utes af­ter open­ing both days.

Singh said the process went more smoothly on Mon­day be­cause the county re­quired res­i­dents to upload fewer doc­u­ments.

By Mon­day af­ter­noon, the county had ap­proved 1,105 ap­pli­ca­tions and de­nied 152.

Ap­pli­ca­tions lack­ing proper ID, a So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber or proof of COVID-19 im­pact were re­jected.

Even if all re­main­ing ap­pli­ca­tions are ap­proved, the county will have at least $5 mil­lion more to give away, Singh said.

Or­ange County Mayor Jerry Dem­ings said the por­tal will re­open for a fourth round at 8 a.m. June 22.

That round will close af­ter 10,000 ap­pli­cants click into the por­tal, ac­cord­ing to the re­lief pro­gram’s web­site, ocfl.net/or­ange cares, which in­cludes el­i­gi­bil­ity guide­lines.

While out­rage lit up Or­ange County’s Face­book page last week,

many of the com­ments on Mon­day were pos­i­tive — some were even com­pli­men­tary.

“Su­per easy process love it,” one ap­pli­cant wrote.

“Thank you, Or­ange County, was fast this morn­ing, no prob­lems,” an­other wrote.

A third sug­gested the county should lend its ex­per­tise to the state De­part­ment of Eco­nomic Op­por­tu­nity to help un­tan­gle the mess in Florida’s un­em­ploy­ment sys­tem.

The In­di­vid­ual and Fam­ily As­sis­tance Pro­gram was cre­ated by Or­ange County with fed­eral funds to help res­i­dents strug­gling eco­nom­i­cally be­cause of stayat-home or shel­ter-in-place mea­sures im­posed by state and lo­cal lead­ers to slow the spread of COVID-19, the res­pi­ra­tory ill­ness caused by a highly con­ta­gious new strain of coro­n­avirus.

The $1,000 grants are avail­able from Or­ange’s share of fed­eral coro­n­avirus re­lief dol­lars. County of­fi­cials set aside $36.5 mil­lion for the pro­gram.

But most will not see the money for a month or longer as their el­i­gi­bil­ity must be con­firmed be­fore the county will is­sue checks.

Ap­pli­cants who asked through Face­book when they would get their money were di­rected to up­dates on www.ocfl.net/Or­ange CARES.

A spokes­woman said the county cur­rently does not have a time frame be­cause of the stack of ap­pli­ca­tions in the pipe­line.

But Singh said the county hoped to have money in ap­pli­cants’ hands within three to six weeks with those first to file first to get checks.

He said the county has 50 staffers as­signed to ver­i­fy­ing ap­pli­ca­tions and the city of Or­lando is lend­ing some help too.

As one of Florida’s most pop­u­lous coun­ties, Or­ange re­ceived about $243 mil­lion from the Coro­n­avirus Aid, Re­lief, and Eco­nomic Se­cu­rity Act — known as the CARES Act — which Congress passed with bi­par­ti­san sup­port and Pres­i­dent Trump signed into law March 27. The $2 tril­lion pack­age also pro­vided stim­u­lus money up to $1,200 for some Amer­i­cans.

Ap­pli­cants for the county pro­gram must be an adult and prove they are U.S. cit­i­zens or a per­ma­nent le­gal res­i­dent; pay rent or have their pri­mary res­i­dence in Or­ange County; and lost a job or pay from a re­duc­tion in hours at work as a re­sult of the on­go­ing pan­demic.

Since March, more than 2.2 mil­lion peo­ple have filed for un­em­ploy­ment in Florida.

“We know just from the un­em­ploy­ment num­bers how great the need is here,” Singh said.

JOHN RAOUX/AP

Guests wear­ing masks stroll through SeaWorld as it re­opened Thurs­day in Or­lando with new safety mea­sures in place.

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