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CARES Act funds sent to Palm Beach County still not distributed

'I’m sorry it didn’t happen faster,' says Commissioner Valeche
Posted at 11:02 PM, Jul 15, 2020

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — A Contact 5 investigation has discovered millions in federal funds from the CARES Act sent to Palm Beach County for mortgage, rental and utility assistance are still not distributed.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Hal Valeche told Contact 5 he wasn’t aware, until we told him, that almost all of the more than $38 million set aside for helping families pay for rent, mortgage, and utilities still hasn’t gone to those most in need.

“Ideally, we’d like to get the money out faster, but we didn’t and we have to live with the consequences. I’m sorry it didn’t happen faster,” he said. “We are trying, and the money is going to get to them eventually, it’s been slow.”

Numbers from the clerk’s office show less than 1% of those funds have been distributed since the county rolled out the program on June 5.

Just $69,530 of the $16.7 million set aside for rental assistance and only $13,610 of the $2.1 million for utility assistance have been disbursed. And just $30,138 of $20 million intended to help homeowners pay their mortgage has gone out.

“Although it’s been slow, I think we’ll still get the funds to the people before they ever get close to being cut off or being evicted,” Valeche said.

The dollars come from the $261 million the county received April 23 from the CARES Act.

The county has already paid out more than $37 million to local businesses from those funds.

Valeche and other county leaders blame the slow down on getting the other relief funding moving on a lack of staff, the process, and required paperwork.

“We required too much paperwork and the applications were just too complicated and cumbersome for people to do quickly and too cumbersome for us to process quickly,” Valeche said. “We have to be careful, it’s the taxpayer’s money after all and we do have to be careful where it’s spent.”

County leaders tell Contact 5 that they’re working to streamline the process by eliminating one of the documents needed and working with non-profits to help people apply in person.