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CARE grants launch to help Tampa Bay businesses, individuals pay bills during COVID-19

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Posted at 4:15 PM, May 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-06 19:30:29-04

PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — New help is just launching in Tampa Bay to help small businesses and individuals get help paying bills during COVID-19.

It’s called the CARES program and Pinellas County leaders says most individuals and business will find the program quicker and easier to apply for help.

Business is rolling back in at Sweet Caroline’s Bakery, and owner Richard Cannici is hopeful that a new $5,000 grant will provide some much needed dough to his Palm Harbor Bakery.

“It’s not going to pay off all my bills or take a huge chunk out of payroll, but it is something, and during these times, something is better than nothing, which is what we’ve had for the last couple months,” he explained.

Cannici says he tried to apply for federal grants but was denied or told the money had already run out.

Christy Hupp at My Favorite Things in Dunedin knows the feeling. An SBA loan she applied for was only partially funded. The two business owners are now among the first 2,200 businesses in Pinellas to apply for the new CARES program.

“It will help to pay some of the bills. That’s what we want it for. We have rent, overhead, my employees,” Hupp explained.

Unlike the federal programs, the CARES grant uses a quicker application process aimed at helping restaurants, bars, hotels and businesses deemed non-essential by the governor…with fewer than 25 employees.

“If you qualify, you will receive the check, it will take a while, but we have enough money to ensure everyone will get their check who qualifies,” Mike Miedel of Pinellas County’s Economic Development Office explained.

Pinellas County hopes to start cutting checks within 3-4 weeks. Businesses can apply even if they received the paycheck protection program or another loan, as long as the money is used for different expenses.

At home businesses, at this time, are not eligible.

To see more information on Pinellas County’s CARE program, you can read about it here.

Individuals can also apply for help. Wednesday, Hillsborough County approved another $257 million towards the CARES program. Residents can apply for rent, mortgage and bill assistance. You can find information on who qualifies for Hillsborough County's program and how you can apply here.

Pasco County will launch a similar program Thursday, providing qualified families up to $3,500 towards paying their bills. Individuals must earn less than 80% of the area median income to apply. You can find information on who qualifies and how you can apply for Pasco County's program here.