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Congressman Carlos Gimenez, New Study on Foster Care, Gyms During COVID-19

Sebastián Ballestas
Miami Herald

Republican Congressman Carlos Gimenez discusses COVID relief, immigration and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Plus, a new study finds a major drop in children entering Florida's foster care system during the pandemic. And a gym owner gets creative during COVID, renting equipment out to his customers.

On this Monday, Feb 1. episode of Sundial:

Congressman Carlos Gimenez

Republican Congressman Carlos Gimenez is facing a number of key issues in his first month in office including COVID-19 relief, immigration, and the push to expel his colleague in the House Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. We spoke with Gimenez, whose district includes Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, about where he stands on these issues.

On Sunday, 10 Republican senators presented President Joe Biden with a $600 billion COVID-19 relief package, a proposal significantly less than the $1.9 trillion House Democrats are looking for.

“There was a lot of money already left over from the previous relief package that can be reapportioned, which I think that's the first thing we ought to do. But look, I'm in favor of a $2,000 relief package to all Americans, qualifying Americans and families. I'm in favor of relief for small businesses in particular that have been suffering through this pandemic, especially with all these lockdowns that we see across the nation,” Gimenez said.

Gimenez later explained that by qualifying families, he referred to those families whose gross income is below $150,000 a year. President Biden also signed an executive order effectively ending construction on former President Trump’s border wall at the U.S. Mexico border.

“I don't know where the wall is needed and where it is not needed. I do know that some of the wall money, materials, and contracts were already in place. So by doing what he [President Biden] did, he cost thousands of people’s jobs that were involved in the construction of a wall,” he said.

Rep. Gimenez also discussed U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is under sharp scrutiny as resurfaced videos have illustrated her history of spreading conspiracy theories, even going so far as to express support for the execution of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Congressman Gimenez argued that Greene’s comments were made prior to her becoming a U.S. representative and if she’s removed from office for those comments, it could set a dangerous precedent.

02-01-2021 SUNDIAL SEG A Carlos Gimenez.mp3

New Study on Foster Care

An increasing number of Florida children are being placed in foster care due to maltreatment, according to a new study from Florida International University and the University of Miami. The research found fewer children are being placed into foster care overall during the pandemic.

Dr. Erica Musser is an associate professor of psychology at FIU as well as a licensed clinical psychologist here in Florida.

“We looked at archival data for the foster care system in Florida dating back to 2000 to June of 2020. We were really focused on April of 2020, looking at the stay at home order set by the governor. And the number of children placed into foster care in April of 2020 was 24 percent less than in April of 2019," she said.

Musser argued we can’t say definitively why there’s been a drop but a number of issues at play include systemic problems within foster care and individual struggles caused by the pandemic.

Robert Latham, associate director of the Children and Youth Law Clinic and lecturer in Law at UM, co-authored the report. He works as a lawyer overseeing a number of foster cases in South Florida and said the trends he’s witnessed over the past year are troubling.

“Whatever is going on in greater society, happens to the foster care system a hundred times stronger. So the foster care system at the beginning really struggled with the resources, getting kids access to education, to healthcare and to dental care,” Latham said.

02-01-2021 SUNDIAL SEG B Foster Care & COVID.mp3

Gyms Innovating During COVID-19

Many gyms were forced to remain closed for months at the start of the pandemic. And for a business model that depends on in-person customers, staying afloat was a challenge.

Daniel Marks owns two private gyms, one in Plantation and another in Pembroke Pines. He saw the need for his customers to continue working out at home, so he decided to allow them to rent out equipment.

“We are going to create a contract. I’m going to have all you guys sign it. And you’re going to rent out the equipment,” Marks said.

Former WLRN intern Amber Amortegui interviewed Marks about how his business had to adjust to the times. She was part of NPR's Next Generation program hosted by WUSF.

02-01-2021 SUNDIAL SEG C Gyms & COVID.mp3

Chris knew he wanted to work in public radio beginning in middle school, as WHYY played in his car rides to and from school in New Jersey. He’s freelanced for All Things Considered and was a desk associate for CBS Radio News in New York City. Most recently, he was producing for Capital Public Radio’s Insight booking guests, conducting research and leading special projects at Sacramento’s NPR affiliate.
Suria is Sundial's fall 2020 high school intern and a production assistant.