Why Boca Waited to Open Beaches, DeSantis to Allow Camps, COVID Loans and More

boca raton

Now we see why Boca Raton waited until after Memorial Day weekend to fully open its beaches.

Even without parks open, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported that many Broward County residents headed north between Friday and Monday. Broward beaches aren’t scheduled to open until today.

A Sun Sentinel photo showed that many beachgoers were ignoring social distancing guidelines. They clustered in groups of more than 10 people and most didn’t wear masks. It was the same in many parts of the country.

Maybe the best news was that stormy weather kept many people away from the beaches and their bad behavior. Delray City Manager George Gretsas said Monday that his report from the beach was: “Wet, windy and quiet.” Thank goodness.

DeSantis will allow camps

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Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Photo: TNS via ZUMA Wire

Gov. DeSantis sprang another Friday surprise on cities and counties last week by announcing that summer camps and youth sports programs could resume.

Coming as it did near the end of May, it was typical of the governor’s poor communication. DeSantis had not referenced summer camps in his Phase 1 reopening order. Local governments that already are dealing with COVID-19 issues can’t quickly ramp up programs for kids. We saw that during last Tuesday’s Boca Raton City Council meeting.

Coincidentally, the issue arose during a discussion about beach reopening. A representative of Island Water Sports asked whether the business could use the beach for the private camp it runs each summer.

From there, council members asked Ahnell about city-run camps. Ahnell responded that they use Palm Beach County School District facilities, which are closed and are scheduled to remain closed over the summer. Boca Raton already had cancelled all “city-facilitated” camps and privately-run campus that use city property.

Neither Phase 1 of the governor’s reopening plan, which Palm Beach County is in, nor Phase 2 addresses summer camps. School districts have’t figured out how to run summer academic programs, much less how to reopen in the fall.

Delray Beach City Manager George Gretsas said late Friday that he had not yet read DeSantis’ order. Not surprisingly, Gretsas was “too busy” with other virus-related issues.

As with so many of the governor’s COVID-19 actions, this one seemed more like a political statement divorced from reality. Cities and counties deserve better.

Palm Beach County COVID loans

One hopes that Palm Beach County’s COVID-19 business loan program will go better than the federal version.

Both are financed by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. The federal program, however, has left relief out of reach for some deserving small businesses and put it into the coffers of some large, publicly traded companies that have ample means to raise capital. The county is using $60 million from its $261 million CARES Act allocation — $50 million for businesses with fewer than 25 employees and $10 million for companies with 25 or more employees.

The need is urgent. In April, according to a University of Illinois study, about 40 percent of small businesses nationwide didn’t have cash reserves to last a month. Wells Fargo reported that small business revenue in Florida is down roughly 60 percent and 41 percent of companies that applied for Paycheck Protection Program loans are still waiting. Wells Fargo also estimates that Florida, which lost about one million jobs in April, won’t recover those jobs until February 2022.

Among the county businesses eligible for loans up to $25,000 are hair and nail salons, gyms and fitness centers, restaurants, medical offices and child care centers. They have suffered the most from government-imposed shutdowns and limitations designed to minimize the virus spread. Recipients can use the money for losses related to the restrictions and expenses to comply with reopening rules.

The county is processing applications on a first-come, first-served basis. For information, visit pbcgov.org.

FAU testing site

fau

Last week, Boca Raton got its own virus test site.

It’s on the Florida Atlantic University campus at FAU’s Tech Runway. The address is 901 NW 35th Street. Anyone over age 12 is eligible, with symptoms or without. You don’t need a referral from your physician.

According to Mayor Scott Singer, the project is a collaboration of the Florida Division of Emergency Management, the governor’s office, FAU, Palm Beach County and American Medical Response. The Colorado-based company has several locations in Florida.

Those seeking a test can call 800/209-7919 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday to schedule an appointment. Masks are required.

Delray CRA to meet today

Downtown Delray

The Delray Beach Community Redevelopment Agency holds its first regular meeting this afternoon since virus restrictions prevented in-person meetings.

On the agenda will be an update about Fabrick, BH3’s proposed project for the three blocks east of the Fairfield Inn. CRA officials consider the project crucial for the wider redevelopment of The Set neighborhood.

In late February, after receiving a notice of default from the CRA for failing to send its site plan and other applications to the city on time, BH3 submitted the plans. Though the CRA owns the land and awarded the purchase contract, the city must approve the design for the mixed-use project.

The city hired a consultant, which reviewed the plans and submitted a report last month. According to the staff memo for today’s meeting, BH3 wants to set up a virtual meeting to discuss the comments. The company also said that, because of the pandemic, it wants to extend the deadline for receiving final approval from the city. That deadline is Jan. 18.

CRA board members will take no vote today.

BH3 distributing meals

boca raton

While discussion goes on about Fabrick, BH3 is doing its corporate part for virus relief.

The company is giving out meals every Friday at noon. Appropriately, the donations take place on the edge of what would be Fabrick, at 21 SW Sixth Ave. BH3 owns the site.

According to a news release, the meal program is a collaboration among BH3, the CRA, the Levy Land Trust and other groups and businesses. Roughly 1,600 meals, provided by Delray Beach-based Caesar’s BBQ, have gone out since late February.

Crocker Partners and JLBR team up

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Boca Raton Innovation Campus (Photo by Christiana Lilly)

Meanwhile in Boca Raton, Crocker Partners and the Junior League have announced a partnership to help those who are suffering in the virus economy.

Crocker will donate 1,500 square feet at the company’s Boca Raton Innovation Campus — the former IBM headquarters — for the league’s Diaper Bank. The space will provide storage for 600,000-plus diapers each year.

Through 22 agencies, the program distributes diapers for 5,000 children each year. That demand has grown because of virus-related layoffs. Maternity websites calculate that babies on average go through 2,500 disposable diapers in their first year. 

Those who wish to donate diapers can email diaperbank@jlbr.org. A volunteer will pick up the donation. Donors also can use the Junior League’s Amazon wish list and have diapers shipped to the organization’s headquarters. The link is http://a.co/6hoQI8P.

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