Safer at Home — Building Through the Pandemic

By Bernard J. Howard

The effects of 2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic can be felt the world over, and the impacts have dramatically changed the working environment for governments and businesses alike. The Seminole Tribe of Florida and its employees were no exception. The “Safer at Home,” order established by Tribal Council on March of 2020, created new challenges for collaboration and communication between the various departments in the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

Interdepartmental communication is the key point that ensures work is completed within a timely manner and meets the regulations of the Tribe. This is a given and an absolute that all departments strive for, specifically those within the Heritage and Environmental Resources Office (HERO) and the Tribal Community Development (TCD) departments. Since the establishment of the “Safer at Home,” order the majority of staff members

have been working from their homes, causing HERO and TCD employees to find new ways to communicate such as online meetings and virtual presentations. The pandemic not only showed HERO and TCD new ways to communicate, but also the importance and dedication needed for a high level of collaboration.

Through this commitment to continuous communication and collaboration the HERO and TCD departments have been able to realize extraordinary accomplishments during such an unprecedented time. These endeavors include reviewing and permitting over 400 projects since the “Safer at Home,” order went into effect in March, along with the completed construction of 47 new homes, and an additional 32 currently under construction, across the reservations. A commitment by the departments to overcoming the hardships that came from the pandemic also led to

1,176 permits issued by the Tribal Inspector’s Office, 943 inspections by the ERMD staff, and a record-breaking 7,714 shovels test completed by THPO staff.

While adjusting to working remotely, these departments were able to remain fully operational during the pandemic, however this new work structure meant that everyone needed to be moving in the same direction and always on the same page. In order to accomplish this, a new fully digital permitting system was developed, along with new permitting guidelines. These new guidelines will not only help streamline the review process for large STOF developments, but also will help simplify the process for Tribal Members wanting to conduct projects that require permits on their own homesites.  These guidelines are currently in the review stage, but more information will be available to communities in the following months.


  • Townhomes – 103 units / 14 buildings

  • Single Family Homes – 31

Big Cypress

Single Family Homes – 38


Single Family Homes – 17


Single Family Homes – 9

Hollywood – 471

Big Cypress – 294

Brighton – 147

Fort Pierce – 2

Immokalee – 70

Lakeland – 175

Tampa – 17

Averaging 150 permit approvals a month.

Number of Case plans processed by TCD Departments

  • March – 61
  • April – 38
  • May – 75
  • June – 56
  • July – 58
  • August – 58
  • September – 40
  • October – 39

Number of Case plans processed by TCD Departments

  • March – 58
  • April – 76
  • May – 81
  • June – 40
  • July – 43
  • August – 65
  • September – 55
  • October – 32

Number of Cases reviewed by THPO

  • March – 51
  • April – 30
  • May – 66
  • June – 53
  • July – 53
  • August – 62
  • September – 48
  • October – 29

Prime Metric for 2020: 11.9 Days

  • Average Turn-Around for THPO 2020 projects:  8.5 Days
  • Average Turn-Around for ERMD 2020 projects:  14.7 Days
  • Average Turn-Around for TID 2020 projects:  12.4 Days

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