By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Fewer tourists in South Florida due to the pandemic means less revenue from the county’s food and beverage tax. That’s prompting growing concerns within the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust.

“Only place in the country that has a food and beverage tax where 85% is dedicated to ending homelessness. The other 15% dedicated to domestic violence,” said Ron Book, chairman of the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust.

The Miami-Dade trust is the pipeline for local homeless, sending funds to organizations like Camillus House and the local Rescue Mission and a myriad of other agencies

“We have spent all of the reserve we have had,” Book said.

And that’s scary as the potential of evictions is going to eventually send more people into the streets, further taxing the homeless trust resources.

“Without this food and beverage tax revenue, we are in trouble,” Book said.

Food and beverage tax revenues are way down. October of 2020 was down 36%. November was down over 12%. December was down 20%.

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Along with the regular programs, there are some 7,000 eviction notices working their way through the courts. Many of those folks could wind up homeless.

“I am concerned about our ability to bring in new people. Our shelters are full and we have a shortage of housing,” Book said. “I don’t have revenue to build more shelters, buy more shelters, rent more shelters.”

There is hope on the federal level, but the relief package is mired in Congress.

“Until that opens up, we can decide how much Miami-Dade County is gonna get,” Book explained. “And then we put together a bank of pro bono lawyers to send into court houses to negotiate settlements, pre-evictions.”

This is an example of what is coming down the pike as tax revenues shortfall begin to impact 2021 city and county budgets.