August is coming to an end and we are still in the midst of a global pandemic with more than 619,000 positive COVID19 cases in Florida and, sadly, over 11,100 people who have died.
Our team has been working around the clock to provide constituent services during this crisis and whatever other support we can. Scroll down to see a quick review of what we’ve been up to, and please be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for updates in real time.
Representative Anna V. Eskamani
UPDATED CENTRAL FLORIDA COVID19 GUIDES
We are proud to provide quick access to COVID19 resources via our website at the links below. These link also include specifics on where you can get tested for COVID19.
REOPENING OF SCHOOLS
We have been staunch advocates for local school districts to be the decider on when and how to reopen schools. Unfortunately, direction from both Governor Ron DeSantis and Commissioner of Education Richard Corcoran have been the complete opposite, and there is now an active lawsuit between the State of Florida and the state’s teacher union.
We’ve submitted letters on this topic to both the Orange County School Board and Department of Education and recently spoke on the importance of COVID19 data transparency and access. We also hosted a virtual town hall with School Board Member Karen Castor Dentel last month that you can watch here.
UNEMPLOYMENT & SMALL BUSINESS RELIEF
Unemployment compensation continues to be a struggle for everyday Floridians. If you are an unemployed Flordian or know someone who is and needs help, please fill out our escalation form here and visit our updated blog post of guidance here. Our team’s caseload of unemployment claimants has exceeded 18,000 people and we continue to provide direct support both to employees and employers.
You might have also heard that Deloitte, the company that built Florida’s broken CONNECT website, is likely to receive another multi-million dollar contract from the state. We are deeply opposed to this decision, and wrote a bipartisan letter to the Governor and AHCA Secretary to ensure our perspective was heard loud and clear.
One of the biggest news stories this past week was Florida finally applying for the federal government’s Low Wages Assistance (LWA) program. This program will provide $300 in additional weekly compensation for any unemployed Floridians receiving at least $100 in their Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) for three weeks. It’s not much, and we continue to ask the Governor for additional relief.
Speaking of the Governor, here’s a letter we sent to his office about two weeks ago outlining four key requests: (1) Extension of the work search requirement waiver for both unemployment insurance and programs like SNAP; (2) Extension of the current Executive Order on evictions and foreclosures; (3) Expansion of Flrida’s Weekly Benefit Amount as no one can survive off just $275 a week; and (4) Small business relief, especially for our small businesses that remain closed.
We are passionate in our support for both workers and small businesses, and have been working closely with our bars and breweries community. On Friday, it was announced by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) that alcohol license renewal dates would extend until at least the end of the year. This was a suggestion made by small business owners during our Orlando roundtable, and I am glad to see it happen.
Earlier this month, we also sent a letter to Florida’s Congressional Delegation asking for their support of the Save Our Stages Act, federal legislation that would provide small business relief for our independent live event venues. Everyone is suffering right now, but we know in particular that the events industry will be one of the last to re-open, and they need our support.
HOUSING & EVICTION DIVERSION
Even before the pandemic, housing security was already a challenge in Central Florida. The situation has only worsened. Thanks to the support of generous donors alongside the donation of my state salary, we have been able to provide direct cash assistance of $26,000 to over 300 Floridians to help with the cost of rent and hotel stays for those who are precariously housed. We have been in close contact with nonprofit partners and are actively connecting constituents to solutions and support.
In case you missed it, we hosted a virtual Evictions Workshop with The Florida Bar Foundation this month. You can watch the full session here.
This past week, Orange County announced an Eviction Diversion Program, which you can learn more about here. If you do not live in Orange County and are in need of support, please consider contacting the County Commissioner in your area. Click here for a summary of information regarding renters issues, too.
OTHER COVID19 TOPICS
Here is a quick review of other COVID19-related topics that we wanted to make sure you were aware of.
From the Tampa Bay Times, After debate over hugs, Florida task force recommends limited nursing home visits
From The Alligator, Students struggle to break free from Fall off-campus housing contracts
From the Orlando Sentinel, Duke Energy to resume disconnecting customers behind on payments
From the Orlando Sentinel, Orlando bars and breweries pitch ideas for reopening with state, but there’s no date in sight
REMINDER: COMPLETE THE CENSUS
Census Bureau data shows Florida still lags behind the national response rate by 7 percent. Last week I spoke to WCTV about the US Census and stressed the importance of completing it.
Learn more here: https://www.census.gov
AWARDS & RECOGNITION
I am humbled to share with you that Orlando Magazine readers nominated us as their second place winner for their Best Of Orlando Community Leader award, and Orlando Weekly Readers’ Choice nominated us as the Best Local Politician for 2020! Lego Explore Orlando provided this awesome LEGO of me, too!
In addition to these two awards, we also received The 2020 Mr. Charles Maddox Patriotism Award in recognition of our work in supporting the brave service members of Florida’s National Guard.
Be sure to join us for these upcoming events! First up, is our third Eskasession set for this Thursday from 5:30–6:30pm. The topic will be campaign finance; learn more and RSVP here.
Each week on Friday at 5:00pm EST we host Weekly COVID19 Office Hours that are live-streamed on Facebook and Instagram. You can learn more and submit your questions in advance here.
REVIEW OF 2020 LEGISLATIVE SESSION
The 2020 Legislative Session ended in March 2020, before COVID19 really hit Florida. Here’s a quick review of some key issues and moments that we were a part of.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
We know times are tough, but always remember you are not alone. Here are just a few resources that can provide crisis support if you or a loved one ever need it.