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Orange County CARES Act portal closes after 10 minutes

Portal may not reopen again, Mayor Jerry Demings says

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla – Orange County residents struggling to make ends meet during the COVID-19 pandemic may have had their last chance to apply for federal funds through Orange County’s CARES Act portal.

The portal was closed at 8:10 a.m. Monday, 10 minutes after it was opened.

Applications for the small business grant program are still open. Small business owners can apply at ocfl.net/OrangeCares.

Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said this may have been the last time residents could file for CARES Act assistance.

“I want to caution everyone, however, that this may be the last time that we reopen the portal due to the overwhelming response we have received to date,” Demings said last week.

Demings said the portal would accept 10,000 applications on Monday, the fifth time the county opened the portal to help individuals and families.

A county spokesperson said the portal hit the 10,000 mark by 8:10 a.m. County officials are still determining if they hit the funding cap. If not another opportunity for applications may happen.

"That gives us the ample opportunity to work within the constraints of the available funds that we have through the CARES act itself," Demings said.

This possible final round of help comes after a rocky start to the program.

The county launched the portal on June 8 and then closed it 20 minutes later. The county said 2,000 users were applying for financial relief in the first minute. The portal reopened the next day and closed after 90 minutes. It opened for a third time the following week and shut down after an hour. It reopened for a fourth round of assistance on June 22 and reached capacity after 75 minutes.

“Applications submitted last month are still being reviewed,” Demings said last week.

Since applications opened for the small business grant program, the county has approved a total of 2,664 applications for more than $20 million in Cares Act funds for small business owners.

As of July 11, more than 28,000 applications from individuals for the family and individual assistance program have been submitted, including 21,000 approvals. So far more than $7.5 million has been paid out to Orange County residents and an additional $920,000 is being submitted for payment Monday.

The team is still processing applications from residents who applied on June 15, according to the county.

The county set aside $72.9 million of its CARES Act grant to help residents and an additional $72.9 million to help small businesses impacted by the coronavirus.

For those who were left out like single mom Louise Pack, she feels discouraged. She was able to get into the portal Monday morning but had trouble uploading her pay stubs and when she tried again the portal was closed.

"I feel backed into a corner right now," she said in tears. "I want to know why is there a limit to helping us families."

At a news conference Monday afternoon, Demings said after this morning the county now has more than 37,800 applications submitted. The program allocated $36.5 million to help 30,000 families. He said already 21,000 applications have been approved and the county has approved for $21 million to be paid out to families in need. He was not optimistic the portal would open up again.

“We need to process the current applications before we open it up again,” Demings said. “Again we have a finite amount of money to administer.”


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