Mayors all over the state have come together to urge Florida’s U.S. senators to push for more federal grant money. Municipality leaders in Southwest Florida and beyond say they are still in great need of direct assistance during the coronavirus pandemic.
In hopes of being heard, 163 Florida mayors signed a letter sent to U.S senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, asking them to acquire money through the federal CARES Act.
Naples Mayor Teresa Heitman said the city must ask Collier County for federal money from the CARES Act.
“That has to be funneled to the city through grants and through applications,” Heitman explained. “So the reason I signed on to it is so that the city would have a direct amount of money from the CARES Act.”
Heitman signed onto the letter along with the other Florida mayors, asking the state’s U.S. senators push the federal government to give money directly to cities and towns, not just states and counties.
“There is just no guarantee that we’ll have any money to be able to go directly to many of our businesses that are in need of help because we are having businesses that are going under right now,” Heitman said.
Like the Naples mayor, Estero Mayor Bill Ribble told us it’s the uncertainty that led him to sign the letter.
“The good news for all the cities here in Lee County is we have done a great job of setting up reserves in each and every one of our cities,” Ribble said. “We can ride this storm out without going to the tax payers and raising taxes … The caveat to that is what happens if we get a hurricane? Then, things could change, and that’s what everyone is afraid of.”
Ten mayors in Southwest Florida are among those in the state who signed the letter, including mayors of Cape Coral, Fort Myers and Punta Gorda. Unless Congress takes action, the letter changes nothing. That’s why Heitman says she understands why other mayors says they might go to court to get bail-out money their municipalities need directly.
Sen. Rick Scott’s office told us, “Before Congress considers spending more money, states need to be forthcoming about how they have spent the money they’ve already received.”
“He’s very wise,” Heitman said. “He’ll make sure we’ve spent our money properly before any other distributions happen.”