The Milkey Family Foundation has donated $100,000 to the Fighting Chance Fund, an initiative by the city of St. Petersburg to help small businesses hurt by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mayor Rick Kriseman announced the gift during an online town hall Monday night with Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg. During the town hall, Crist outlined his priorities for a planned fourth stimulus package to fight the economic crisis caused by efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19.
Kriseman said small businesses are part of the character of St. Petersburg in thanking the Milkey Family Foundation for its donation to the city fund.
“We fully believe that small independent businesses give the city its unique identity and culture. They really are the backbone of the city. We have frequently supported the restaurants and craft breweries and have gotten to know many owners and servers very well. So, we feel strongly about supporting them at their time of need,” Kevin Milkey, an insurance industry veteran whose family established the Foundation, told the St. Pete Catalyst.
It’s the second major gift for a planned second phase of the Fighting Chance Fund. The Vinik Family Foundation donated $100,000 last week.
The Fighting Chance Fund was set up to help locally-owned independent businesses with less than 25 employees get through the difficult economic times, with $5,000 grants to businesses and $500 grants to employees who meet the city’s criteria.
About $6.8 million in city money was used to kick off the fund, and city officials are soliciting private donations to cover a second phase.
Kriseman said he would talk in more detail about a second phase of the fund during a planned Facebook Live event Tuesday afternoon.
The Milkey Family Foundation, based in St. Petersburg and established by insurance industry veteran Kevin Milkey, his wife Jeanne, and their family, was created to support local charities in the area.
“Now is a critical time with many people and businesses suffering financially. We feel strongly about supporting our local businesses in St Pete and their employees to help them weather the storm. We also have donated to Feeding Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger Meals on Wheels 4 Kids program, Daystar Life Center and the Pinellas Arts Community Relief Program to help others struggling during the pandemic,” Milkey told the Catalyst.
Also during the town hall, Dr. Nishant Anand, executive vice president and chief medical officer for BayCare Health System, said he is cautiously optimistic with the progress made and the direction the area is headed in fighting to contain Covid-19. Social distancing is working, testing is more widely available than a month ago, and there are some promising treatments, he said.
“Most people are getting better,” Anand said. “Eighty-five percent of people [with confirmed cases of Covid-19] don’t need to be in the hospital … We are seeing a flattening of the curve and I’m cautiously optimistic that we can handle the surge, now predicted to happen on May 3.”
Crist discussed a proposed fourth Covid-19 economic stimulus package. His priorities include:
• A “rock solid” economic and safety commitment to frontline healthcare workers and other essential workers
• Borrower protections after hearing that lenders are asking for balloon payments, despite mortgage protections in the initial $2 trillion stimulus package
• Two more months of the $1,200 checks for individuals
• Closing loopholes so older children, college students and dependent adults with disabilities can get assistance
• Expanded student loan debt relief until six months after the emergency ends
• Expanded nutrition assistance so more people are eligible for food
• Cash refunds for cancelled flights
• Additional efforts for small business assistance, including extending the loan forgiveness window through the end of the crisis
• Aid for journalism. “We need an independent media and our newspapers now more than ever, but they’re hurting and aid for them I believe is very important to protect the First Amendment, to make sure we have honest journalism that is straightforward and truthful,” said Crist. He singled out the Tampa Bay Times, which has cut its print editions to two times a week.
Crist also supports federal funding for mid-size cities such as St. Petersburg and Clearwater. Cities under 500,000 in population did not get any funding in the earlier $2 trillion relief bill.
“Mayor Frank Hibbard of Clearwater and Mayor Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg know what their cities need … We hope that’s in the next relief package as well,” said Chris Fischer, Crist’s deputy chief of staff and legislative director.