Pinellas CARES grants offer glimpse of hope as Florida slowly re-opens

Posted at 7:27 PM, May 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-21 19:27:03-04

Pinellas CARES Small Business Grant

  • The Pinellas CARES Small Business Grant has the funds to give 6,500 businesses in the county $5,000

  • Businesses must have between 1 and 25 employees, or full-time equivalent employees

  • Home-based businesses do not qualify

When your bank account balance is at zero, desperation sets in. Local cities and counties are trying to make sure struggling business owners have a lifeline as Florida staggers plans to reopen.

"I feel really excited for that because I feel like that's the little hope at the end of the tunnel here," Tammy Waterman, the owner of Special Moments Event Planning, told ABC Action News reporter Michael Paluska.

"That $5,000 may not seem like a lot. But, it's going to pay electric, it's gonna kind of get me through the summer, and yes there are still brides reaching out wanting to book weddings but they are very cautious," Waterman said. "So, it isn't like a flood gate."

The Pinellas CARES Small Business Grant has the funds to give 6,500 businesses in the county $5,000. But, the grant comes with specific requirements.

"To be eligible, you have to have commercial space in Pinellas County, so you have to be renting space somewhere for your storefront for your business or service," Mike Meidel, Director for the Pinellas County Economic Development Department said.

RELATED: Pinellas County CARES Small Business Grant Program opens

"You have to have between 1 and 25 employees, and that is full-time equivalent employees, so if you have 50 half time employees, you would still qualify," Meidel said. "You have to be expected to return to full-time operations after the crisis is over you can't have already shut your doors permanently."

Home-based businesses do not qualify.

Meidel said the program was designed to give help to the maximum amount of businesses in the county in need. He asks people applying to supply all the required documentation the first time around to get their check as soon as possible.

"It'll take two to three weeks, probably to receive your check. We hope to get that down to faster than that," Meidel said. "We want to help businesses to stay in business and kind of tide them over until they are able to receive funds from the paycheck protection act or other programs."

RELATED: St. Petersburg offering $5,000 grants to eligible small businesses, $500 to eligible employees

Meidel said anyone who qualified for the St. Petersburg Fighting Chance Fund can also apply for Pinellas Cares.

Mayor Rick Kriseman confirmed to ABC Action News the city has given out more than $2 million to small businesses through the fund.

The City of Tampa and Hillsborough County also have similar programs.

Waterman said she is grateful for the help but thinks event planners should be allowed to get back to work sooner rather than later.

"I feel like you should treat the wedding venues like you are treating restaurants. If restaurants can do business, why can't wedding venues do business? Give us some guidelines. Let us go back to work," Waterman said.

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