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Subcommittee Meeting on February 3, 2021

The Appropriations Subcommittee meeting was called to order at 3pm on Wednesday, February 3, 2021.

The purpose of this subcommittee is to discuss strategies for the dispersal of monies from the recent stimulus package passed by Congress. The meeting was attended by the following: Kurt Ponchak, Debbie Hietala, David Stevens, Rafaella Diershaw, Bernie Kaiserian, Jim Warth, Alan Risk, John Ahler, Maureen Fink and Bill Findley. Janet Chernoff attended to take notes and prepare the minutes. The meeting was held in compliance with the Sunshine Law and was open to all interested parties. Only the attendees listed above were allowed to speak.

Kurt Ponchak opened the meeting at 3pm. Janet Chernoff called the roll. The minutes of the previous meeting and the agenda were approved without objection. Prior to the meeting a draft policy statement authored by Kurt was emailed to all participants. The statement was as follows: All vendors are eligible for relief unless they do not have a loss as a result of the pandemic. Vendors whose facility was closed because of circumstances other than the pandemic during the comparison period may not be eligible for relief. The State licensing agency shall use its relief grant to make financial relief and restoration payments to offset losses of blind vendors that occurred during March through December of calendar year 2020. The state shall use the net proceeds of all vendors to determine losses during the comparison period. No formula will give an advantage to vendors in a way that compensates groups of vendors unfairly. The State Licensing Agency and The State Committee of Elected Vendors along with other working groups will develop a formula or formulas for distribution of the funds. This policy statement will be modified as needed should circumstances require.

The group discussed standards for eligibility for the funds. The first discussion was concerning vendors that started in 2020 and were not in facilities in 2019. This effects three vendors. The group discussed whether these vendors would be eligible for money as there is no data from 2019 for comparison. The group reconfirmed that the group would be using net profit to determine vendor income. After some discussion the group agreed that it would be appropriate to use the figures for the facility from 2019 for the purposes of comparison. The next group that the panel needs to look at is vendors who retired in 2020. Of the four vendors that left facilities in 2020 one was in their facility less than a month during the reporting period of March-December 2020. The group determined that a vendor needed to be in a facility a full month to be eligible. There was a short discussion about whether these vendors left owing money and if stimulus money could be used to pay their outstanding working capital. The discussion moved on to the disposition of vendors who retired in 2020. Debbie Hietala made a motion that anyone that retired in 2020 between March and December should be eligible for monies from the stimulus package if they were in the facility for at least a full month. Seconded by Bernie Kaiserian. Passed without objection.

Bernie asked whether the group would be looking at income from the vendor or the facility. Vendors who are in the same facility in 2019 and 2020 are compared to themselves and he questioned how income would be calculated for vendors who changed facilities. Kurt told the group that the law says that they should be comparing the income of the vendor and based on that any vendor who started in 2020 would not be eligible because there is no income from 2019 for comparison. Bill Findley suggested that it would be simplest to compare the vendor income for 2020 to the facility income in 2019. He said that the law indicates that the purpose of funds is to offset vendor losses and the subcommittee needs to determine what is considered a loss. Maureen Fink reminded the group that the program needed to have vendors in those facilities and does not have the option of leaving facilities vacant without a manager. Jim Warth agreed that the facility income for 2019 can be used for comparison for the income of vendors who entered that facility in 2020.

Alan Risk and John Ahler have been compiling data for the subcommittee. Alan explained that they compiled the net profit of a vendor’s primary facility in 2020 and compared it to the net profit of that facility in 2019. In the majority of the cases the same operator was in the facility both years. Debbie Hietala asked about vendors who took a Type II contract to offset losses from their primary facility. Alan told the group that they need to decide if income from a Type II would be considered as compensation for the loss. The program has a few vendors that have more than one Type I because the facilities were combined to make one viable opportunity. Alan confirmed that for these purposes the data was combined for those vendors. Kurt confirmed with the group that the agency will be using net proceeds from both the vendor and the facility and that the draft policy statement should be edited accordingly.

The group discussed how income from a Type II should be calculated and whether it should be considered compensation. Bernie Kaiserian questioned whether 100% of Type II income should be considered as compensation as it does not reflect the time and expense that a vendor puts into the facility. Rafaella agreed that income from a Type II is not the same as income from a grant. Bernie suggested that the program use 50% of Type II income as compensation. Alan explained that they took data from the vendor’s primary facility and that some Type IIs were taken prior to the pandemic and some were taken during the pandemic. David Stevens suggested looking at income between facilities rather than vendors. Kurt told the group that he would like to work with Alan Risk to compile the data. They would take all the above in consideration and put together the data for the subcommittee so that they can review it at Monday’s meeting. The subcommittee agreed to this plan.

Kurt reconfirmed that the group had agreed to the following: vendors who retired in 2020 would be eligible as long as they were under a LOFA for one full month between March and December 2020; vendors who entered their first facility in 2020 would be eligible and the program will use facility data from 2019 for comparison and that the program will use both income from both the vendor and the facility.

Bernie confirmed that data from retired and new vendors who were not in a facility for the entire period would be prorated. Alan Risk used data from the MBR reports filed in 2020 and compared them to the same months in 2019. Kurt confirmed that this meant that they would be considering data from 107 vendors. Bernie asked about data from facilities that were closed in 2019 and Alan said that in the rare incidences where data was unavailable for 2019 they took data for the same month from the most recent year that they had. Kurt suggested that vendors with ideas or suggestions could send them to Janet Chernoff for the panel’s review. In the near future the subcommittee will schedule a meeting to get input from the vendors. Rafaella encouraged all vendors to contact their representatives to encourage them to expedite the payment of the stimulus funds to programs and vendors. The next meeting is on Monday, February 8 at 3pm.

The meeting adjourned at 4:00pm.


Florida Bureau of Business Enterprise

Providing Tools and Support for Legally Blind Vendors in the Food Service Industry

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