Florida’s primary is next week and there’s still no CARES Act money

Pinellas County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – A little more than a week from Florida’s primary, Tampa Bay election supervisors are still waiting for more than $20 million that was allocated by Congress.

The money is intended to help pay for the added costs of holding an election in a pandemic.

Pinellas County requested nearly $900,000, but like the rest of Florida’s 67 counties, has yet to see a dime.

“We’ve already used that money to purchase PPE and mail out 400,000 mail ballot request cards to voters who didn’t have mail ballot request on file,” said Julie Marcus, Pinellas County’s supervisor of elections.

Vote-by-mail ballot requests will be through the roof this election season, but Pinellas County is prepared. Marcus says about 75 percent of voters in her county vote by mail, depending on the type of election.

In the 2016 primary, 114,000 voters in the county cast a ballot by mail, about 71 percent of all ballots cast. This year, requests are dwarfing those numbers.

“We’ve gone from 272,000 requests in June to where we’re now at 350,000 requests,” Marcus said.

She said she has brought on double the backup poll workers to help out on Election Day and during early voting. She tried to buy another fast ballot-counting machine, but the vendor was sold out.

“There’s costs we are incurring as we speak,” said Marcus. “We are relying upon those funds. At some point, if we don’t get them, we’ll have to put some place marker on the agenda for the county commission in case we have to ask for special appropriation so we don’t run into the red, which is not something you can do.”

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