Appropriations Subcommittee Public Forum on February 15, 2021
On Monday, February 15, 2020 the Appropriations Subcommittee held a public forum to allow hear comments and ideas from vendors on the distribution of the stimulus money. The meeting was attended by the subcommittee members; Kurt Ponchak, David Stevens, Debbie Hietala, Bernie Kaiserian and Rafaella Diershaw along with BBE staff Bill Findley, Alan Risk, John Ahler and Janet Chernoff. Robert Doyle, DBS Director also attended.
The following vendors were scheduled to speak: Maria Reynolds, Randall Crosby, Antonio Gonzalez, Natasha Ginarte, Mansour Nazari, Mitzi Bowen and Mary Hayes. Mitzi Bowen withdrew her name prior to the meeting and Mansour Nazari and Antonio Gonzalez were unable to attend. Mary Hayes was having technical difficulties and will speak to the subcommittee members at their next meeting on February 22, 2021.
Kurt Ponchak called the meeting to order at 3pm and Janet Chernoff called the role. The participants were advised that they would be given 3 minutes to speak.
Maria Reynolds was the operator of Facility 519, post office vending in Miami. Maria resigned from her facility effective May 1, 2020 primarily due to concerns about the safety of herself and staff from exposure to Covid-19. Maria briefly touched on the subcommittee’s discussion on whether vendors who retired in 2020 would be eligible for stimulus funds. The subcommittee had previously agreed that retirees who were in a facility at least one month were eligible and that the money would be prorated based on the vendor’s time in a facility during the designated period of March – December 2020. Maria expressed the opinion that sales were already being impacted in February 2020 and that sales declined due to teleworking, customer’s fears about the safety of using vending machines and food donations given to essential workers.
Randall Crosby is the operator of Facility 407, I-95 rest area and is the Representative for District 4. Randall Crosby thanked the subcommittee and BBE staff for all their efforts in devising an equitable plan for distributing the funds. He liked the subcommittee’s idea of comparing net profit from 2019 to 2020 to determine loss.
Natasha Ginarte is the operator of Facility 608, Gainesville-Lake City vending and has a Type II Facility, Facility 616, St. Augustine vending route. Natasha first questioned how it was determined how much the Florida program would receive and thought that Florida was going to get 3 million dollars. She told the group that vendors had been encouraged to apply for grants and other compensation and said that vendors struggled with product shortages which impacted sales and loss of inventory. She also told the group that sales at post offices were impacted.
Kurt Ponchak told Natasha and the group that the Florida program is receiving 1.3 million (as opposed to 3 million) and that Florida’s portion of the 20 million provided for Randolph Sheppard vendors in the stimulus package was calculated by the number of vendors as of September 2019. Kurt told group that there may be administrative costs that may need to be paid out of state dollars or the allocation. He asked Robert Doyle about the cost and Director Doyle indicated that he would ask DOE. Robert expressed the hope that administrative cost could be kept to a minimum. Kurt asked subcommittee members to submit any suggestions for formulas to Janet Chernoff no later than close of business on Thursday, February 18. Kurt would like to have a plan for the Committee in March but knows that no final decisions can be made until some direction has been received from RSA. Kurt suggested a formula that would divide the loss by the allocation to get a percentage. He suggested that the loss incurred by anyone vendor should be capped at 73,000 and individual vendors would be paid that percentage of their loss. Debbie Hietala feels that you cannot compare a vendor who lost 100% of their business to someone who only lost 20%. Kurt told the subcommittee that they may decide to present more than more option to the Committee.
The meeting adjourned at 3:39pm. The next meeting will be Monday, February 22, 2021 at 3pm Eastern time.