MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Representatives of 16 cities in Miami-Dade, including mayors, vice mayors and city commissioners, lashed out at Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Thursday, saying they are being cheated out of federal CARES Act funds owed their cities.
An outspoken Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez said, “This is an insult and it is a very shameful day for the mayors and the Commissioners. What we lack is leadership in the county and that is why we are all over the news. Let’s stop clowning around. The citizens are the ones who are suffering. It is time to stop acting childish.”
Miami City Commissioner Keon Hardemon, who is president of the Miami-Dade League of Cities, said “We believe Mayor Gimenez has been dishonest with the people of Dade County. We are asking that Miami-Dade right what is wrong and give us that was promised.”
The city mayors said of the $474 million given to Miami-Dade County, they should be receiving about $275 million based on the fact that the cities represent at least 57% of the county’s population.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench a lot of money is at stake. He said the city should be eligible for $81 million but under the county’s proposal it would only receive about $8 million.
“That is the only thing we have asked from the very beginning is fairness,” said Suarez at a packed news conference at Miami City Hall. “Every single city in America receives cares act funding based on population. Today we still don’t know how much the county has allocated and whether it will go in to our cities.”
Suarez earlier this week said he would be filing a freedom of information act request to see when the county received the federal funds and how they are being spent.
The CARES Act stands for Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security. It is a $2 trillion economic relief package meant to help with the fallout during the Coronavirus pandemic. It provides money for police and firefighters and can help residents by avoiding more taxes and fees.
Coral Gables Mayor Raul Valdes-Fauli said, “We deserve this money during this time of a horrendous crisis.”
Doral Mayor J.C. Bermudez said, “What the county does not need is dishonesty from leaders.”
North Miami Mayor Philippe Bien-Aime said, “Our population right now is suffering. We need every single penny.”
“What we are asking for those cities to do is to talk to us. They haven’t talked to is since Monday. They haven’t even answered our calls. They have plenty of time to hold press conferences but they won’t even answer our calls,” said Mayor Gimenez.
He said the cities can apply for reimbursement if they think they are eligible. And on Tuesday the county sent cities a letter outline how they can apply for reimbursement. Among things that are eligible: COVID-19 testing, COVID Tracing, Disinfection for public areas, public safety measures and paid leave for public employees.
“We want to make sure they are leveraging as much money as possible,” Gimenez said. “We will reimburse them for those things that are COVID-related and reimbursable with the CARES Act. We will be happy to do that. We are in discussions with a number of those cities on invoices and we will be happy to pay those invoices if they are COVID-related and eligible expenses. What we will not is sign a blank check to cities. That is not something we are going to do.”
Cities have until Monday to submit their reimbursement forms to the county but city representatives say they want their money now.
Hardemon said, “Now is not the time for Miami-Dade to nickel and dime us for a plan.”
Gimenez also residents can apply for reimbursement through the city or county if they think they are eligible for federal funds.
He outlined a number of areas that applied including Small Business Administration grants, the restaurant loan program, non-profit programs, taxi and jitney drivers and organizations involved with arts and culture.
The mayors said Gimenez may have to call a special meeting to resolve this issue. They said they hope to get help from their state representatives and Mayor Francis Suarez said the county may be forced to take legal action against the county if nothing is resolved.