The City of St. Petersburg’s COVID-19 response fund is drawing to the close of its second round and toward the expansion of eligibility criteria to home-based businesses in round three, according to an update by City Development Administrator Alan DeLisle Thursday.
The Fighting Chance Fund, developed to help St. Petersburg-based businesses and individuals mitigate the economic losses associated with COVID-19, has thus far provided funding only to brick and mortar businesses and employees associated with those businesses.
Home-based businesses have not been eligible, according to administration, because they do not have outstanding rent concerns and usually have fewer employees than brick and mortar businesses.
Council member Brandi Gabbard has repeatedly brought home-based businesses to the forefront of the conversation and pushed for their inclusion in the program, something DeLisle says is top-of-mind for Phase Three.
Funding of home-based businesses is also more likely to help businesses in the Childs Park Community, according to Child Park Neighborhood Association Vice President Jabaar Edmond.
Edmond said that restriction, among others, has been particularly burdensome for black-owned businesses, many of which have not qualified for Fighting Chance relief funds.
“Childs Park doesn’t have a business district, so we rely on stay-at-home businesses and digital businesses, but none of those businesses qualified,” Edmond said.
“They’re those gray area businesses that are actually the foundation of the Childs Park economy … the most robust business district we have is in the neighborhoods. Some will survive because they have low overhead but many may not.”
Through Fighting Chance, the city has awarded grants of $5,000 to small businesses and $500 to individuals. To date, city staff has waded through 4,579 applications and awarded $3.6 million.
So far in Phase Two, which is still open, 668 individual applications have been received, and 311 of those applications have been approved. For business applications, 620 have been received and 283 have been approved.
Of the $6.8 million committed to the Fighting Chance Fund, along with the $500,000 donated by local businesses and community members, the fund still has $3.5 million to distribute to businesses and individuals.
Eligibility requirements were expanded between Phase One and Phase Two, as well. The first phase of funding required that business be located in St. Petersburg, and that the owner of the business live within city limits. It required the business to be operational for at least one year, employ a total of 25 employees or less, full-time and part-time, that the business be brick and mortar.
Businesses had to prove a loss of income from COVID-19 and fall into one of the following industries: restaurant; bar; retail; personal service; hair, beauty and other personal services (salons, barbers, day spas, tattoos); laundry services; cleaning services; pet care services; personal care service (funeral, child care, elder and disabled care); repair and maintenance; fitness centers and gyms; event spaces.
The second round of Fighting Chance relief launched April 30 and expanded eligibility to St. Petersburg business owners who live outside of the bounds of the city, and those who had been in business six months or more, rather than the full year required in the previous round.
The second round also added two industry sectors: travel agencies and tour operators, and clarified that individual businesses operating in another business’ space, whether a co-working or leasing space directly from another business owner, can apply to the program.
St. Pete Catalyst previously reported many of the businesses funded and denied by Fighting Chance in Round One. Based on a word search of denial reasons provided by the city, St. Pete Catalyst found that nearly 90 were denied because they were classified as a franchise or chain business, nearly 150 were classified as non-eligible, 12 were in business for less than one year, approximately 150 were denied because the owners resided outside of the city or failed to prove residency in the city. Over 150 applications were marked incomplete, and more than 100 were denied because they were home-based, rather than brick and mortar businesses. Twelve more applications were denied due to the business’ location outside of city limits.