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Pinellas County plans Phase Two for Pinellas CARES financial aid

Margie Manning

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Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

Pinellas County officials are starting to put together the outlines of a second phase of Pinellas CARES, a program to help individuals and businesses that have been financially impacted by the Covid-19 coronavirus crisis.

Details of how a Phase Two program would work and who it would impact have not yet been developed. Barry Burton, Pinellas County administrator, told members of the Board of County Commissioners Tuesday that his staff will be reaching out to community members for recommendations on what a Phase Two would look like.

Burton said he hopes to have Phase Two in place by the end of June, a few weeks after the first phase ends on June 1.

The Pinellas CARES program taps the $170 million in funding the county received from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Pinellas CARES Financial Assistance for Individuals offers up $4,000 for one-time financial assistance to individuals and families who have lost jobs or significant income due to Covid-19 to help pay for overdue rent, mortgage and utility bills. Between the time the program launched on April 30 and the end of day May 17, the county completed and closed 131 cases for a total of $146,887 in financial aid, said Daisy Rodriguez, director of Pinellas County Human Services. Another 641 cases are in progress, with an estimated payout value of $818,630, she said.

Applicants can text COVIDCARES to 898211 to start the process or click here for more information on qualifications. The first phase of the program ends June 1.

As of May 18, 3,700 businesses had applied for the $5,000 grants offered through the Pinellas CARES Small Business Grants, said Mike Meidel, director of Pinellas County Economic Development. Officials have reviewed about 25 percent of the applications, and the county has issued 307 checks so far, totaling more than $1.5 million. Meidel said it will probably take until the end of June to clear the backlog. Another 173 cases have been denied, primarily because they didn’t meet the qualifications to receive a grant.

Applications won’t close until June 1. The county, which has about $35 million available to fund the small business program, has estimated there are 6,500 eligible businesses in Pinellas County.

Pinellas commissioners extended the county’s local state of emergency declaration for the Covid-19 crisis until May 29. The county is operating under the guidelines established by the state in gradually reopening businesses that were closed or had operations restricted to slow the spread of the disease. The local state of emergency allows the county to require social distancing at public beaches and pools and to keep playgrounds closed.

The county also has launched a data dashboard, with information about the Covid-19 cases in the county, as well as testing and healthcare capacity data. The dashboard can be found here.

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