Fewer snags in applying for relief
County performed better, but the portal was open less than an hour.
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.
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