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City Council discusses Fighting Chance fund and latest COVID numbers

Jaymi Butler

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St. Pete City Hall
St. Petersburg City Hall, courtesy of St. Pete Flickr.

The City of St. Petersburg’s Fighting Chance Fund, an emergency grant for small businesses in St Pete that have been negatively impacted by COVID-19, still has $2.4 million to give away.

City Development Administrator Alan DeLisle announced the availability of funds at Thursday’s virtual City Council meeting. Fighting Chance is currently in its third phase of funding. Initially aimed at providing aid to retailers, restaurants and bars and service-based businesses owned by St. Pete residents, Fighting Chance has since expanded its reach to cover home-based businesses and businesses based in St. Pete whose owners live outside the city.

Home-based businesses are eligible for $2,000 awards, while brick-and-mortar businesses can earn $4,000 grants. As of Wednesday, 211 applications for home-based businesses had been submitted, 103 reviewed and 89 approved for a total distribution of $178,000. On the brick-and-mortar side, 281 applications have been submitted, 111 reviewed and 91 approved with a total of $364,000 approved, DeLisle said.

The first two rounds of Fighting Chance netted more than 1,780 approved applications and $4.3 million flowing to local businesses. 

Jessica Eilerman, manager of the St. Petersburg Greenhouse, said her team is currently trying to reach out to more home-based businesses who may not be aware of their eligibility. 

“Our goal is to exhaust these funds and help as many small businesses as possible,” she said.

Also at Thursday’s meeting, Amber Boulding, Emergency Manager for the City of St. Petersburg, reviewed the number of cases of COVID-19. As of Thursday, Pinellas County had reported an additional 431 positive cases Thursday for a total of 9,826 confirmed infections. Twelve more deaths were also recorded. The rate of positive tests was 16.1 percent for those who received results Wednesday.

Boulding said the numbers have changed dramatically since the last council meeting in June, and that they now include a considerable amount of community spread. However, she noted, the number of deaths and hospitalizations has remained relatively stable. Testing capacity has also gone up, with the new Mahaffey Theater site completing 750 tests Wednesday on its first day of operation. Roughly 40,000 masks have been distributed, and wearing face coverings is now required in public indoor spaces.

“Hopefully in the next week and a half or two we will start to see the effects of these mitigation measures” Boulding said.

The council also discussed adding portable plexiglass shields to separate council members when public meetings reconvene. Dr. Israel Wojnowich, a physician at Bayfront Health St. Petersburg who attended the meeting, said the measure would likely would reduce risk of exposure. 

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