On Monday Osceola County Commissioners gathered for their meeting at Osceola Heritage Park’s St. Cloud room in order to abide by CDC guidelines  and to be much more socially distant than is possible at the county admin building.

The message county commissioners said they’re receiving the most from Osceola County residents as COVID-19 continues to make its way though our county, state and the world, is people need rent assistance and food assistance.

The County Commission talked about potential plans to get store gift cards to be used for food in the hands of residents who have lost jobs or are furloughed while they wait for government assistance from Congress’ sweeping $2.2 trillion stimulus package.

“We need to do something now, in the short term as temporary gap funding until they get their stimulus money,” Board Chair Viviana Janer said, suggesting a $100,000 pool of county general funds to provide $100 per person or $200 per family who can document they’ve been affected by the coronavirus-caused economic slowdown. “We’ve never moved to do this before. But I don’t want to keep waiting since so many people need help now.”

She said she’s heard more calls for help with food than for rental assistance. The board will try to put a plan in place this week and plans to meet again Wednesday, but the framework is important to commissioners like Fred Hawkins and Cheryl Grieb.

“We’re going to have more requests than we have funding,” Grieb said. “People have shelter, because they can’t be evicted right now. So food is the immediate need.”

Landlords can pursue evictions all they want, but the courts are not hearing them, according to County Attorney Andrew Mai. Celestia McCloud, who oversees the county’s Community Development Block Grant program, said her office has fielded about 500 calls for rental assistance “from folks across the board”.

There are emergency funds the county can use for rent assistance now that most utilities have agreed to suspend service shutoffs for non-payment during the COVID-19 lockdown. McCloud said many regulations are being relaxed, and the county awaits what expects to be about $900,000 in federal money for the stimulus bill. Her office is also coming up with a plan to best distribute that money into the community.