Mayors around Miami-Dade County are concerned about not getting what they say is their share from federal funds that would help the municipalities pay for pandemic-related services such as testing, rental assistance, mortgage assistance and food programs.
Keon Hardemon, the President of the Miami-Dade League of Cities, told NBC 6 exclusively on Monday that federal funds from the CARES Act that were sent to the county aren’t being shared the way they should be.
Hardemon, who is also the chairman of the Miami city commission, said he was “astounded” by what happened with Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez and how he handled this federal money.
“We believe in the League of Cities that Carlos Gimenez bamboozled not only us but his own Miami-Dade Commission,” Hardemon said. “He cheated the League of Cities and our municipalities.”
Hardemon said that he and other representatives of the cities had been in negotiations with the mayor and his staff over this federal money that amounted to $470 million, saying the cities were counting on these funds to pay for food drives, rental assistance and PPE gear for firefighters and paramedics.
“We just think that that’s disingenuous,” Hardemon added. “They have taken away from municipalities and our ability to serve our residents, and in all of our cities we are facing this COVID relief and we are doing everything we can to provide those dollars to our community."
NBC 6 spoke with several mayors in the county who said they were sorely disappointed and angered that Gimenez’s plan was to only give them $30 million dollars to divide up among the 34 towns and cities.
They say that’s a fraction of what they need and nowhere near what the mayor and his team initially told them would be coming. Of the $470 million in CARES money, the mayors said they thought they would get $135 million.
“We are providing more police officers so we can have more distancing to make sure that restaurants and other business are following the law. Now, we don’t have the funds to do that,” Hardemon said. “I think that that’s sad.”
"We, as the City of Miami, are exploring the possibility of legal action against Miami-Dade County for bad faith negotiations, and for taking away the money from our citizens,” Miami Mayor Suarez said.
In a Tuesday call via Zoom, Gimenez said residents are being aided no matter where they live.
“There seems to be some confusion that somehow Miami-Dade County only provides services to the unincorporated area. Nothing can be further from the truth," Gimenez said. "Our commission is taking this task very very seriously. We believe the best way to allocate this money is throughout the entire Miami-Dade County area ... So every city will get their fair share to the people."
Gimenez went on to say the municipalities within each county could simply submit their invoices for COVID-eligible expenses and the county would reimburse, but some mayors point out not all cities are in a position to front the money.
“Some of the cities may not be able to do that because they don’t have the funds to ... Mayor Gimenez is, I think, very able to navigate this," said Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber. "I think he could probably work with the cities to figure out something that respects their independence in our county and their role in providing critical services closest to the people."
The county and the city mayors since March have all tried to be on the same page when it comes to fighting COVID-19, but when it comes to what happened Monday with the CARES money, local mayors think they had the rug pulled out from under them at the last minute. Gimenez said he’s open to working all of this out but says he didn’t get a call in advance about potentially being sued.