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“Free money” from the federal government has arrived in City Haul and is being redistributed, ostensibly to lower-income Jacksonville citizens who have been adversely affected by the Chinese virus.

Not that we don’t trust them to do it correctly, but we hope someone monitors the process, just as a matter of fiduciary prudence.

City auditors, local media “i-teams” or some other eyes ought to be watching. Eye on Jacksonville intends to.

After conjuring up trillions of dollars out of nowhere, the federal government shipped it out to state and local governments to provide relief. (They called it a “stimulus.”)

Jacksonville got $159 million.

The plan is to give out $40 million to individuals in $1,000 increments, stored on plastic cards. To get one you must be a Duval County resident, provide proof you were employed on Feb. 29, make less than $75,000 per household on the date of application and have lost at least 25 percent of your income because of the virus.

The remainder of the free money will be spent on:

  • $12.5 million for the city’s emergency relief fund.
  • $20 million for city-owned or operating facilities.
  • $25 million to make up for lost tax revenues to the city from the virus.
  • $26 million small business relief money.
  • $35 million for virus testing.

Each of those expenditures also includes the possibility of errors or funny business, and should be monitored.

The virus testing, for example, would cover tests for every local resident if the cost were $35. If it was double that, it still would allowing testing 500,000 people.

Presumably there will be no charge for having the test, but that does not mean it is free. It will cost someone something. Even if it is done by city personnel already on the payroll, the testing materials will have a cost. Reports in the media have put the cost of at-home, DIY test kits at $119-$135.

As of yesterday, 28,441 tests had been done here, with 1,084 positive. There had been 26 deaths.

The small business relief money also bears watching since media reports indicate a lot of money intended for that purpose has gone to larger, well-capitalized companies.

The money for “lost tax revenues” presumably is to replace regulatory fines and fees the city is waiving and perhaps anticipated sales tax shortfalls, but how the amount was calculated is not clear.

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Lloyd was born in Jacksonville. Graduated from the University of North Florida. He spent nearly 50 years of his life in the newspaper business …beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor for Florida Times Union. He has also been published in a number of national newspapers and magazines, as well as Internet sites. Married with children. Military Vet. Retired. Man of few words but the words are researched well, deeply considered and thoughtfully written.

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