According to Keith Wilkins, the Escambia County Director of Community and Environment Department, the target for beginning the process of receiving RESTORE Act project applications is the month of June. No date has officially been determined, however, when the Escambia County Commissioners met on Thursday April 16th at the Pensacola Bay Center, Bryon Griffith also presented the month of June as the target for opening the project submission portal. With the five-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill tragedy approaching, the county commissioners met in a workshop format to discuss the various project funding criteria related to the following categories:
Dewberry described this as a significant administrative decision hurdle to determine how RESTORE Act dollars will be awarded. The gravity of the decision is related to the amount of the penalty that the federal judge will award to the federal government. If a penalty of ten billion dollars is awarded to the federal government for BP having violated the Clean Water Act, Escambia County is slated to receive one hundred million dollars plus.
The Board of County Commissioners decided to send the project scoring criteria back to the Advisory Committee for updated changes. One of the major issues to be given more scrutiny for points is the commissioners desire to give more weight to “leverage funding” that would incentivize matching funds and stakeholder collaborations.
The NAACP Pensacola Branch Economic Development Committee Chairman made a presentation to the County Commission which was adopted by the local organization which stated that the NAACP is not seeking funding, however, the branch plans to serve as an oversight and monitoring stakeholder to advocate for a fair, equitable and level playing field for African-American and minority non-profits and businesses to receive funding. Additionally, the local branch listed community concerns to be focused on 1.) Job creation and training, 2.) Business development and contract opportunities; lastly, 3.) Environmental justice programs in the African-American community. The presentation included a request for the County Commissioners to fund employment and procurement disparity studies through RESTORE Act funding to follow the lead of the City of Pensacola, which in January established its Minority and Women Owned Business Enterprise Program.