The St. Petersburg City Council has approved the first part of a resilience and retention economic package designed to help local businesses recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nearly $2.6 million in funding will be used to provide grants for small businesses, arts and cultural and business support organizations, non-profit events and a navigator position at the St. Pete Greenhouse.
“While we are a resilient city made special by our local economy and cultural landscape, the stressors of the past year have certainly shown us that even the most resilient cities are fragile and we need constant response,” Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin told Council members. “We have pivoted our economic development plans and approach to focus with laser precision on our local economy and the signature cultural elements that define our city in a way that reinforces their resilience, with the hope that we are able to retain and advance as many businesses as possible in St. Pete.”
Sophia Sorolis, director of economic and workforce development, and Jessica Eilerman, the mayor’s small business liaison and Greenhouse manager, outlined how the money would be spent.
• $1 million for small business retention and restoration grants. Small businesses with 50 employees or less would be eligible, although restaurants would not be required to meet that requirement, Sorolis said. The grants would provide assistance for past Covid mitigation steps, the purchase of personal protection equipment and the upgrade of building systems and digital technology. “We would expect to assist at least 100 businesses,” Sorolis said.
• $936,000 for arts and culture business and performance grants. “The arts and culture sector of our economy has been disproportionately affected because of not being able to perform,” Sorolis said. Businesses with a physical location are eligible for a one-time grant of $5,000 while individuals, home-based businesses and events with attendance could get a one-time award of $2,500 if their primary source of income is arts related. Medium-size culture venues, such as thestudio@620 or Creative Clay, are eligible for up to $15,000 in a one-time award.
• $100,000 for business support organizations such as One Community and Main Street business organizations. They could get a maximum of $10,000. That would include $5,000 for Covid-related response and business assistance retroactive from March 17, 2020, as well as $2,500 for loss of organization revenue such as memberships or sponsorships and $2,500 to support new programs between now and Aug. 1, 2021.
• $500,000 for non-profit event support organizations. “These are long-standing events associated with the city of St. Petersburg,” Sorolis said. “We were gratified to have the Localtopia event that Keep St. Pete Local successfully undertook. They have told us this was a very important event for them. This would help other such events come back to the city by providing them funding to get back on their feet.” For large events, with previous total attendance of up to 20,000 people, the grant amount would be $25,000. Medium events, with previous total attendance of between 5,000 and 19,999 people, could get a grant of $12,500. Smaller events could apply under other programs, Sorolis said.
• $40,000 for a small business navigation program. It’s an existing program that launched in 2019 out of the Greenhouse, a collaboration between the city and the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce. It offers one-on-one assistance and curated support to small businesses, Eilerman said. The Chamber now wants to expand the program and add a new navigator, Eilerman said.
Additional parts of the resilience and retention package will come before the Council at a later date, including $1.5 million for Covid-19 mitigation efforts such as testing, vaccination and education, and $750,000 to provide support to large cultural institutions.
Council members approved a resolution expressing support for the economic package and drawing on several funding sources to provide the first round of funding for the grants.
Nearly $1.1 million is from resources that formerly were available from the Fighting Chance Fund, a city initiative to provide grants to small businesses at the height of the Covid crisis. Another $32,414 is from the unappropriated balance of the Fighting Chance Fund donations, while $236,586 comes from the $5.4 million that St. Petersburg is receiving from the federal CARES Act funding.
Another $1.2 million in funding for the first part of the program will be drawn from money previously budgeted for the city’s neighborhood commercial revitalization program, the storefront conversation program and the Grow Smarter initiative.
The city is finalizing the application process. St. Pete Catalyst will have a followup when the platform is ready.
Businesses that are interested may utilize an incentives notification form. Those that sign up for the notification form will get announcements and updates as more information becomes available. Signups are not required but are a way of receiving timely updates on the programs they are interested in learning more about. That can be found at https://stpetegreenhouse.com/