It has been my privilege to serve as County Commissioner for District 8 for five and a half years. The Coronavirus era creates unique challenges and also opportunities. I have worked hard every day to help our community cope and survive. And I have done this while staying home as much as possible, to protect myself and others from disease transmission. Like so many, I have
become adept at handling online communications, and have tried to share
resources and solutions with my constituents and fellow elected officials.
My resourceful and compassionate staff have been available around the clock to help the thousands who have reached out to share their struggles: obtaining virus testing, paying rent, finding food, obtaining vital nemployment benefits, and obtaining small business assistance. We have organized and participated in dozens of food relief events.
In addition to direct aid, we have publicized available resources through a regular public affairs online show called “Our Community Cares”. For the past 6 weeks we have hosted over 20 speakers covering job retraining, mental health, landlord-tenant, unemployment and more. These are all archived on my Facebook page. Thousands have listened and benefited from this timely and vital information.
As a policymaker, I am also responsible for providing guidance to our County government on how to best respond in this crisis. Due to closures and the “safer at home” orders, the County Commission did not meet for over a month. During that time County Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued dozens of executive orders without input from the Commission, although the Commissioners by charter are the county’s policymaking leaders. I used this time to fully study and understand the public health, economic and
humanitarian challenges and best practice solutions, and to write letters, memos and articles to guide the process.
Most of the solutions I identified have indeed been adopted by the Mayor, and many adopted by Governor DeSantis. In the early phase of the crisis, I called for a “Safer at Home” order as recommended by health experts to flatten the curve. To ensure the public has full access to our Commission meetings, I urged the Chairwoman to have our meetings virtually and allow for proper public engagement. As the state’s unemployment portal crashed and denied access to vital aid to laid off workers, I immediately called for the distribution of paper unemployment applications and other social service applications at libraries. As our local agriculture community also found themselves in the throes of the crisis, I moved to have our County purchase produce from our area farmers and move forward with a food distribution program in partnership with area farmers.
Now my focus is building testing and tracing capacity as this is the single best tool we have to guide a responsible reopening and recovery strategy. This is why we need additional test sites in our district, coordination with area cities, and expansion of antibody testing to assess how many residents may have contracted the virus. The Mayor also followed my call for mandated facial
coverings to contain the spread of the virus and ensure our residents feel better protected when having to go out.
Most recently we’ve seen the County follow my urging to include census education materials at food distribution sites, and the Supervisor of Elections will now move forward with mailing vote by mail forms to each household. All of these important steps were implemented after my call for action.
An article appearing in a recent issue of this paper suggested that my letters and memos were irrelevant and redundant with decisions already made. Based on the timeline and record, nothing could be farther from the truth. I’m grateful to serve during these unprecedented times, bringing my history of service and expertise. I will continue to actively lead and advocate to meet our community’s needs as we all struggle to adapt to this brave new world.
Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava represents District 8 on the Miami-Dade County Commission.