Sun Logo

Starting on Tuesday, Sept. 15, Polk County seniors and disabled residents will be able to tap into some leftover COVID-19 federal funds to ease the financial burden the pandemic may have dumped on their shoulders.

Last week, the Polk County Commission opted to set aside $5 million leftover from the county's original $126 million to help the county's seniors through what seems an endless battle against the virus.

The funds will be available to any senior who will swear they have seen their living expenses escalate due to the pandemic, and the county governing board set no income limits restricting the aid.

Commissioners also agreed to take another $10 million from the federal subsidy pot to help area hospitals recoup some of their costs related to battling the disease. Lakeland Regional Health will get about $5.8 million, with Baycare's two Polk hospitals in Winter Haven and Bartow taking home $4.2 million.

Those reimbursements aren't a given, explained county budget director Todd Bond, and are presently being vetted by county budget staff.

Meanwhile, county staff is using the model developed to hand out individual and business grants to applicants, and adapting it to use in providing the grant money for seniors and the disabled who may not have qualified under the earlier two support grant programs.

Most of the individual grants were about $2,000 per household. Commissioners said they expected the senior and disabled grants to top out at about $2,000 per applicant, and would provide help for 5,000 to 7,000 residents.

Applications for the funds will be available via the county's website: www.polk-county.net. Paper applications also will be made available.

Also last week, the county board okayed providing a $2.5 million check to Polk's unemployment agency, CareerSource, to help pay for training for those who lost jobs during the past several months.

CareerSource staff said that the money would pay for training for about 250 people who need new skills to get hired in today's job market. It was not detailed what sort of jobs those would be or where they would be located.