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The Benison Center of Immokalee donated nearly 4,000 protective gowns and about 400 masks to NCH as COVID-19 causes nationwide shortage. Naples Daily News

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Collier County commissioners Tuesday said they want to direct money the county expects to receive from the CARES Act back into the community. 

Commissioners said they want to see the initial 25% of funding go to more coronavirus education, distribution of masks and protective equipment and assistance for nonprofits. 

“I would like to see 100% of this money injected back into our community at some point,” Commissioner Bill McDaniel said.

No official decisions were made by Collier County at a public meeting Tuesday. Commissioners shared ideas for where the dollars could be used and directed staff to bring back items at their meeting in July.  

From columnist Brent Batten: Commissioners start to carve up Collier's share of CARES Act cash

Related coverage: Collier projects millions in reduced government revenue due to coronavirus pandemic

The CARES Act, or the Coronavirus Aid and Economic Security Act, became law at the end of March. Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a plan to distribute $1.275 billion to Florida counties with populations below 500,000, such as Collier. 

In total, Collier projects it will receive about $67 million. 

At the meeting Tuesday, commissioners unanimously voted to sign a funding agreement with the Florida Department of Emergency Management to receive the initial 25% of those funds. That comes to about $16.8 million for Collier County. 

Collier must spend the dollars on items or programs related to the coronavirus pandemic. Money must be spend by the end of the year, county staff said Tuesday. 

A majority of commissioners said they would like to see the funds go to education, such as social distancing and ways to wear a mask. They also suggested dollars be used for distributing masks. 

“I would like to see some portion of this dedicated to mask distribution, especially in communities where we can see they’re just not available,” said Commissioner Andy Solis. 

More: Collier commissioners asked to shift money from Sheriff's Office during budget talks

Plus: Amazon distribution center in Collier could be good news for labor workforce

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Commissioners said they wanted to further examine programs by other counties across the state to help local businesses.

The commission also discussed how to help nonprofits and other areas impacted by the pandemic, such as child care and local food banks. 

“We want all these dollars to go into the community for community needs,” said Commission Chair Burt Saunders.

Solis suggested looking at supporting mental health resources in the community. 

“Part of that would be our veterans,” Solis said. “What can we do specifically to help our veterans, whether it’s housing or mental health services?”

Commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday to hire eight temporary full-time staff who would administer the county's programs for CARES Act funding. Those positions include grant coordinators and accountants, according to the county.

FTA announces $8.2 million grant to Collier

Collier Area Transit will receive an $8.2 million grant from the CARES Act, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Transit Administration announced this week. 

CAT is expected to use the multi-million-dollar grant for operating and administrative expenses and preventative maintenance, according to a news release from the agency.

Brittany Carloni is the city of Naples reporter at the Naples Daily News. Support her work by subscribing to our local news organization. Find her on Twitter as @CarloniBrittany.

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