ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Money to pay for COVID-19 testing at Orange County’s Barnett Park is running out and county leaders are hoping help from the federal government will allow them to keep offering this free service.
Cars continued to line up at Barnett Park on Thursday. Orange County Public Safety Director Danny Banks said the demand is so high the county started offering free rapid tests seven days a week last month.
“Just in the last month we’ve tested almost 30,000 people just at Barnett Park and that’s really a response to our community’s demand,” Banks said.
But the cash needed to keep the site open is running out.
“We’re using our CARES money given by the federal government to do this and that ends Dec. 30,” he said.
Banks said right now they have enough federal CARES Act funds to support the free testing site through December 30. He said the county allocated almost $4 million of its $243 million grant funds toward testing.
However, the funding source stops at the end of the year and it’s unclear right now if the county will get more money.
“We are very much dependent upon that federal funding opportunity and make no doubt about it. We need those funds,” Banks said.
Banks adds this is about more than just testing.
“Things like the small business grant program, the individual family assistance program, the eviction diversion programs, the PPE that we’ve been able to offer to our community and the testing, those are all important programs that we’ve done from Orange County from that federal grant that we’ve been given,” he said.
Banks said the county is talking to our legislators about the importance of this funding.
“To really emphasize to them the value of those funds to local communities and our hope that we can get a resurgence of those funds to Orange County,” Banks said.
He adds as the deadline looms, he is optimistic the funding will come.
“We don’t want to hit a dead-end Dec. 30. I think no one benefits, most importantly our community doesn’t benefit if we hit that brick wall on December 30,” he said.