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Hillsborough leaders approve grant program to help small businesses hit by civil unrest

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Posted at 3:45 PM, Jun 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-04 04:45:35-04

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Relief is on the way for small businesses suffering from the civil unrest over the weekend in the Tampa Bay Area. The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) unanimously approved the Rebuild Community-Based Businesses Grant program during its meeting Wednesday.

Wisam Eldilemi's alarm went off at his business, Culture of Fame off Busch Boulevard, over the weekend. When he checked his cameras, he could see people looting and ransacking his store.

“We are a small business, family-owned,” said Eldilemi. “All our customers, when they come in here, they see me, my wife, and kids. We work from the morning to about 11 hours a day. So when we saw everything we worked hard for destroyed, it hurts.”

Eldilemi says half of his merchandise was stolen and his windows were damaged. He estimates the loss at around $100,000.

The new grant program through the county aims to help business owners just like him. It’s specifically for businesses impacted by civil unrest on or after May 30. It is a reimbursement program, so funds are available to owners when they need to be reimbursed.

“This is not a program where you come to and you get funds and you go do something,” said Carol Minor, the manager of Entrepreneur Services with Hillsborough County’s Department of Economic Development. “This is a program where you have to go do something and then once you do that, then you’re reimbursed.”

Damaged or stolen inventory replacement, physical repairs, signage and painting all qualify. Grants can go up to $50,000 for costs directly related to repairing, restocking and reopening a business damaged by civil unrest.

“It will help because it’s, especially with the insurance company, we’ll be lucky to get 20 to 30 percent of what we lost,” said Eldilemi. “That program is going to help a lot of people bounce back and get back in business.”

Wednesday's BOCC meeting agenda provides more detail on Hillsborough County's grant program:

County officials hope to start taking applications by Monday. They do ask people to call the Entrepreneur Collaborative Center (ECC) at (813) 204-9267 to register. For more information about the program, click here.