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New Pandemic Center at the University of St. Thomas to Fund Businesses

Written by Jesse Scheckner on November 24, 2020

About a third of the $ 3 million in Cares Act funding that Miami-Dade is giving to the Center The University of St. Thomas' Pandemic, Disaster and Quarantine Research Fund will be used for grants to local businesses, according to St. Thomas University President David Armstrong.

On Monday, the university formalized its agreed with the county to receive funding to develop the center, called PDQ for short. But by then, the school had already begun working with the Miami-Dade Chamber of Commerce to award about $ 1 million in grants.

"Vam You are going to be a go-between for different entities that also deal with Covid issues, so the entire grant [the county gave St. Thomas] will not go to PDQ, "Armstrong said. “Some will be delivered to beneficiaries who submit their proposals on what they need to survive during Covid. Instead of the county accepting all these applications, we can do it for them. ”

The school expects to see a rapid change in the companies that spend the money it gives them by Dec. 15, he said, adding that the flexibility of the Cares Act dollars should ease its spending.

Miami-Dade received $ 474 million in Cares Act funding from the state. Any unspent monies as of December 30 must be returned to the federal government.

"The money can be used for things that companies have already invested in, it can replace that money, and most of the Cares Act has been replacing the money that companies had to spend to stay open," he said. “For us, we have incurred a lot of costs when it comes to Covid, and we have also incurred a lot of costs to prepare the PDQ. We ran the risk that this would be good for Miami, Miami Gardens and the state. ”

At some point in the future, PDQ will have its own building and a full, dedicated staff whose influence crosses the Miami-Dade borders to create impacts at the state, national and global levels, he said.

For now, it will operate out of an existing facility, albeit one that has just completed a massive expansion, and will focus on local research, solutions, and help for businesses in the area struggling amid Covid-19.

PDQ's physical footprint will be at the school's renamed Gus Machado College of Business, which recently completed a two-building expansion for $ 21 million. St. Thomas will use about $ 2 million from its Care Act distribution that county commissioners approved on October 26 to build the PDQ within that space.

"We envision it as a complete building where we perform administrative tasks and analysis so that people can have a one-stop-shop to turn to for information and research decisions on pandemics, disasters and quarantine," he said. “Most likely it will start as a pair of offices with access to other complementary areas.”

As of this writing, PDQ Director Oliver Gilbert III, the immediate former mayor of Miami Gardens now serving his first term as Miami-Dade commissioner, is the only school employee whose salary is based solely on his I work at the center.

Mr. Gilbert described his role in a September interview with Miami Today as “sitting in a room with a group of smart people trying to figure out how the pandemic affected us and planning how our social institutions, from businesses to parks to police and the government, everything, can plan if something like this happens again. ”

Mr. Armstrong said the school now wants to hire a full-time administrator for the PDQ, whose two presidents are law professor Todd Clark and Jose Rocha. The center also includes a faculty advisory board with members from multiple departments within the school: law, science, nursing, business, data analysis, criminal justice, healthcare, and psychology, including



The center will analyze and use the information from those and other departments that relate to its work and then pass the data on to others who can use it. One such example came from the school's athletic management program, whose faculty warned against closing athletics for the year, Armstrong said.

"They wrote an article about how schools that are closing athletics are making a mistake and why," he said. “We are part of the Sun Conference, and there are schools that played the entire fall season. Now our faculty will come back, investigate and answer whether the predictions made in the article were correct and provide the data to back it up. ”

So far, St. Thomas has held a couple of meetings under the PDQ banner. The first, a webinar titled "Innovation in the Time of Covid-19," was held in May and featured Touchsuite CEO Sam Zietz, Baptist Health Medical Group CEO Bernie Fernandez, the partner. Bilzin Sumberg's manager, Albert Dotson Jr., and Ultimate Software's chief human resources officer. Officer Annmarie Neal as panelists.

"That was right in the middle," Armstrong said. “Many people were so grateful to hear from different leaders in different areas about what they were doing and how they were doing it.”

Another seminar took place on October 29 in the simulated courtroom at St. Thomas Law School. Titled "Leadership in the Land of Covid-19," panelists at the event included Miami-Dade Public Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, Florida Rep. Oscar Braynon II, Miami Mayor Francis Suárez, Florida Shervin Rep. Jones, then Miami-Dade Commissioner Esteban “Steve” Bovo Jr. and Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, then County Commissioner.

"We had more than 200 people attend virtually and more than 100 people here on campus," Armstrong said. “It was great, especially since it took care of all the local decisions.

The next event on December 9, he said, will be “Onto Prosperity; Opportunities for small businesses in the land of Covid-19 ”.

“Another point from PDQ is that as much as politicians want to say that there will be a vaccine and that we can close it and fix it, nobody knows what will work and what will not, and the whole idea of ​​[these] sessions was to show people how to take good decisions so we can live with this, keep people safe and the economy moving, ”Armstrong said. “This word will not go well, but it is my word, you have to have balance. When you have a good balance, research and data, you can make correct and balanced decisions and move on. ”

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