The battle between South Florida mayors and Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez over money from Washington sent to help residents to get through the coronavirus pandemic moved to its newest stage as talk of a lawsuit continued Tuesday.
Gimenez and the mayors have been trying to work out their differences over the money they say is critical to families and neighborhoods.
The mayors of the 34 municipalities in Miami-Dade were livid over getting less than 10% of the money that came from from the federal government. Earlier Tuesday, county commissioners at their own meeting said they heard the outcry and came up with a plan to set aside some of the money going forward.
The $470 million in federal funds sent to Miami-Dade is paying for COVID-19 testing, food for families, and helping those who lost jobs pay their rent, among other things.
On Tuesday, county commissioners debated what, if anything, should be done to calm angry mayors who say they are getting shortchanged.
“When I see what's going on I don’t like it because we are providing services county-wide,” Commissioner Joe Martinez said.
Looming over the discussion, is the fact that commissioners in the City of Miami have already given City Attorney Victoria Mendez the green light to sue the county and the feds over the funds.
“If a lawsuit would be filed, is there a possibility that a judge would issue a stay or injunction on the county dispersing money? Does the possibility exist?” Martinez asked the county attorney. The reply: depending on the facts the judge could make that decision.
With a potential outcome like that one, and a deadline on spending all the money in 2020 or it gets returned, Commissioner Dennis Moss stepped in with a plan to make sure cities get at least $100 million.
“I want to see if we can put this city-county issue to bed as much as possible,” Moss said. Commissioners gave Moss' plan the green light.
“There’s been a lot of back and forth and a lot of name calling about the CARES Act funding," Gimenez said.
Gimenez added that rules must be followed but cities can get the money back for COVID-19 related programs.
"I have been speaking to a number of you how about the right way, or what we can do to help some of the cities. The cities have been clamoring to basically get some kind of a blank check which I am totally against giving a blank check, but we have received all of the invoices from the expenses they have incurred due to COVID-19 that may be CARES Act eligible,” Gimenez told commissioners.
“We are still not happy with what we see in the City of Miami and we have have such tremendous need," said Miami Commissioner Keon Hardemon, the Miami-Dade League of Cities president. "You need to understand Miami is a poor city and so we look at the dollars we were supposed to be getting that’s just based on population. That’s not need base population.”
Hardemon said what the county is doing isn’t nearly enough to satisfy what residents need and for now at least in the City of Miami the city attorney should go ahead and prepare their lawsuit.
Gimenez told commissioners the county’s accounting team has gotten receipts from all they cities except one, Hialeah. The county is in touch with them about submitting their paperwork.