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Emergency rental assistance program closes

Due to an overwhelming need in the community, the Pinellas County Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program is now closed to new applicants. The county distributed $47.9 million to over 5,200 households and the remaining $5 million in funding is set aside for the backlog of applications. County staff will continue processing requests over the next several weeks, with priority given to residents with active evictions and households earning less than 50% of the area median income (AMI). Pinellas County and the City of St. Petersburg jointly administered the federal funding. St. Pete exhausted its ERA money earlier this year.

Azalea Middle School student youngest to earn drone certification

According to the Unmanned Safety Institute, Rhys Marriot, 11, is the youngest person in the nation to earn its Safety Level 1 Industry Certification. The certification is a college-level accredited course. Rhys completed the course as part of Azalea Middle School’s Academy of Engineering program.

Pinellas Comfort Systems Acquired by Strikepoint Group Holdings

Strikepoint Group Holdings (SGH), one of the largest home services companies in the U.S., announced Tuesday that it acquired Pinellas Comfort Systems as part of its expansion in the Tampa Bay region. SGH also owns and operates Performance Air and Paradise Air in Tampa Bay, and Elite Heating & Air in Sarasota. Pinellas Comfort Systems has served the area since 1957 and marks the 21st acquisition in the last 21 months for SGH, formally Horizon Group Holdings. Founded in 1987, SGH owns home service companies in 11 states from New England to Florida.

Walmart to use drone delivery in Florida

The retailer giant Walmart is expanding its drone delivery program to six states, including Florida. By the end of the year, it hopes to fly deliveries from 34 sites across Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Texas, Utah and Virginia, Walmart announced Tuesday. Walmart launched the drone delivery program in 2021 and it was only available in Arkansas. Walmart customers who live near drone-capable stores will be able to order items weighing less than 10 pounds in total between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The deliveries will be done via a drone operated by a company called DroneUp. 

Ad hoc members needed for CBA Council

The City of St. Petersburg is seeking four members to potentially serve as ad hoc members of the Community Benefits Advisory Council (CBAC) for the first project of the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) program. Ad hoc members are chosen from residents within one mile of the project location. The project in review is the development proposed for the site at 800 1st Ave. South in downtown St. Pete. The TPA Group and the Moffitt Cancer Center are planning to develop a cancer care center and residential tower. Residents living within one mile of the site are encouraged to apply for the vacant ad hoc CBAC positions. Applications can be submitted here and will be accepted until May 28 at 11:59 p.m.  

Viniks give Tampa Museum of Art $5M for education center

Philanthropists Jeff and Penny Vinik have given $5 million to the Tampa Museum of Art towards its new education center, which will be known as the Vinik Family Education Center. It is part of the museum's ongoing $100 million Centennial Campaign for Renovation and Expansion. In 2019, the Vinik family gifted $5 million to endow the position of executive director. The education center opened on May 16, and will serve as the temporary entrance to the museum while additional renovations are completed on the west side of the building

Lightning shut out Panthers, complete sweep

Following a 2-0 victory over the Florida Panthers Monday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning are just one playoff series away from their third-straight Stanley Cup Final. Goalie Andre Vasilevskiy led the way for the Lightning, stopping all 49 shots that came his way. The Panthers led the NHL scoring but could muster only three goals on Vasilevskiy, who blocked the last 88 shots he faced. The score remained tied at zero until the third period thanks to successive scoring challenges by the Panthers. Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov each had goals taken away following official reviews in the second period. Lightning left wing Pat Maroon made one count at 6:16 in the third, and Ondrej Palat added an empty-netter to ice the game with under 30 seconds remaining on the clock. Tampa Bay will now get some much-needed rest before facing the winner of the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes series.

City pools to open to the public this coming weekend

All neighborhood seasonal pools in St. Petersburg will open to the public on Saturday, May 28, according to the city.  

Pinellas County’s unemployment rate drops to 2.1%

Pinellas County's April 2022 unemployment rate has set a new record at 2.1%. The last record low was 2.2% back in April 2006. The new rate represents a drop from 2.4% in March, and a 4.2% increase in the labor force over the past year.

Time names Nadine Smith among the 100 most influential people in the world

Time has named the longtime LGBTQ rights advocate Nadine Smith as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. Smith, a Black, queer woman, has served the Tampa Bay LGBTQ community for over 30 years, speaking out against discrimination. Smith is the executive director of Equality Florida, which is based in St. Petersburg, and is an award-winning journalist. She also led the charge against the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, according to her profile. Read the full Time 100's list here.  

Bolts go for sweep Monday night

Following a dominant 5-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Sunday, the Tampa Bay Lightning took a commanding 3-0 series lead they will look to finish at home Monday night. While the Panthers finished the regular season as the NHL’s highest-scoring team in 26 years, the defending champs have held them to just one goal in each of the series’ three games. Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov finished with a four-point game Sunday with seven goals in the series alone. Beating the Panthers on their home ice Monday night would earn the Lightning some much-needed rest before the Eastern Conference Finals as they look to win three straight Stanley Cups. The puck drops at 7 p.m. in Amelie Arena.

Pinellas jail locks down due to Covid

The Pinellas County Jail is on lockdown until June 6 due to a sharp increase in Covid cases. According to a Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson, 26 inmates recently tested positive for the virus. The trend mirrors an uptick in the county, as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 3,930 new Pinellas County cases over the last week. The organization rated Pinellas as a medium level of community impact. The sheriff’s office did not provide details on the severity of the inmates’ illnesses. The last time Covid forced the Pinellas County Jail into lockdown was in January.

The St. Pete Catalyst

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