Writer: Felipe Rivas
2 min read April 2021 — The widening availability of vaccines nationally and the stabilization of unemployment figures are fueling optimism for a return to a pre-COVID semblance of life. In South Florida, Broward County has its eyes set on safety, community support and infrastructure improvements as part of its recovery efforts.
As summer approaches, the county has eased COVID restrictions as local residents demonstrate a willingness to become vaccinated. Last week, the county amended its Comprehensive Emergency Order, lifting several capacity restrictions and outdoor sanitation requirements. As of last week, more than 450,000 Broward residents were reported as fully vaccinated while an additional 280,000 residents received their first dose, according to the county.
“As summer approaches and outdoor restrictions are relaxed, we encourage all eligible Broward residents to get vaccinated, and enjoy the many outdoor activities the County has to offer,” Broward Mayor Steve Geller said in a statement.
The availability of vaccines also bodes well for the county’s steadily declining unemployment figures. The current unemployment rate stands at 5.3%, according to the St. Louis Federal Reserve. That’s a far cry from the 17.4% peak in May 2020. However, difficulties in paying for rent, utilities and other services persist for many Broward residents. As a result, the Broward Commission recently launched a COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance Program. Thanks to a $53 million grant from the U.S. Treasury, vulnerable residents may be eligible for up to 12 months of rent and utility assistance. Applications will be accepted from eligible renters or owners/landlords on behalf of renters as long as the funds remain available, the county announced.
Infrastructure and resilience improvements are another critical part of the county’s recovery efforts. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced last week a $6.25 grant slated for Broward County’s infrastructure improvements. The grant was awarded to the county through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Rebuild Florida Mitigation General Infrastructure Program. With sustainability and resilience in mind, the program allows local governments to develop large-scale infrastructure projects to make communities more resilient to future disasters, the county announced. The funds will contribute to a $12.5 million Broward County Water and Wastewater Services project to improve regional infrastructure interconnectivity between Broward County cities. According to the county, the funds will help construct an interconnect between the county’s reuse facility, located at the North Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant, and the city of Pompano Beach’s OASIS Reuse Facility, creating the first steps to a regional reuse solution.
“This project fosters the continuation of a long-term partnership between Broward County and its municipal partners,” said Mark Darmanin, director of the Water and Wastewater Operations Division, in a statement.
The project will help mitigate natural disaster risks by reducing the demand on the eastern Biscayne Aquifer wells used to produce potable water. The project is also slated to reduce the treated wastewater being deep-well injected and increase the use of treated wastewater for irrigation and industrial purposes, the county reported. The funds will also help ensure continued investments in reuse infrastructure, according to the county. This regional solution benefits approximately 600,000 people served by 11 municipalities.
For more information, visit: https://www.broward.org/Pages/Welcome.aspx