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Local musicians create ‘Voice Your Vote’ video

A group of Tampa Bay singers, songwriters and musicians have created a non-partisan music video encouraging young people to vote in the upcoming presidential election. "Voice Your Vote," which includes singing, dancing and a brief rap section, is also viewable in an American Sign Language version. Watch the video here.

C-level exec retires at Raymond James

 Jennifer Ackart is retiring as chief accounting officer at Raymond James Financial, effective Sept. 30. Ackart has served with Raymond James (NYSE: RJF) for more than 25 years, the company said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Raymond James, a financial services company headquartered in St. Petersburg, has not yet announced a successor to Ackart.  

St.-Pete Clearwater airport plans emergency preparedness drill

St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport will conduct an emergency preparedness drill next week, simulating the response to a commercial passenger aircraft experiencing an engine failure and crashing into the runway. Several agencies will be involved in the Federal Aviation Authority-mandated exercise include airport rescue and firefighting, airport operations, the FBI, Allegiant Airlines, 911, FAA air traffic control, emergency services (municipal fire/EMS), law enforcement, Transportation Security Administration, medical director’s office, Office of Emergency Management, and the Red Cross. The drill will take place between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18, Due to Covid-19, the drill will limit participants on-site, the airport said. 

Selfie challenge announced to encourage more people to complete the 2020 Census

The Pinellas County Census work-group, with funding and leadership from the Foundation for a Healthy St. Petersburg, has launched the "I Love My Neighborhood Census Challenge," a selfie campaign and friendly competition aimed at getting residents to complete the the census by the Sept. 30 deadline. The challenge encourages people to capture things in their communities that are funded based on census numbers and post them on social media with the hashtags #lovemyneighborhood and #pinellascensuschallenge. At the end of the challenge, which runs throughout August, the municipality with the highest increase in census response and the best pictures will be named the winner. For more information, click here

Bank of America provides 100,000 masks to local nonprofits

Bank of America is partnering with three local nonprofits to provide personal protective equipment, specifically 100,000 masks, in the Tampa Bay area. The masks are intended for the most vulnerable populations, including low-to-moderate income families, at-risk schoolchildren and migrant farm workers, said Bill Goede, Tampa Bay market president for Bank of America (NYSE: BAC). Metropolitan Ministries received 40,000 masks to be distributed in partnership with the Bullard Family Foundation’s Back to School Bash to more than 9,200 families. Feeding Tampa Bay received 40,000 masks to keep their frontline staff and volunteers safe as well as to be distributed to families hard hit by the pandemic. Another 20,000 masks were given to Beth El Farmworkers Ministry to be distributed throughout the Wimauma community as part of the Wimauma Together Collaborative. The donation is part of the bank's $1 billion, four-year commitment of support to help local communities address economic and racial inequality accelerated by a global pandemic.

Florida Holocaust Museum launches sixth annual Trunks of Hope fundraising campaign

The Florida Holocaust Museum has launched its sixth annual Trunks of Hope online campaign to ensure teachers and students have the free Holocaust education tools and resources they need to return to the classroom. Through their charitable foundation, Crofton Cares, Amy and Michael Southard  will match campaign donations be matched dollar for dollar up to $18,000. To make a donation, visit TheFHM.org/Trunks.

St. Petersburg College awarded $90,000 from United Way Suncoast

The St. Petersburg College Foundation will receive $90,000 in community investment funding from United Way Suncoast. The funding will help support two of the school's programs, FAFSA: Fill it out! and It’s MY FUTURE! These programs expand efforts to provide one-on-one assistance to families needing assistance with the FAFSA application process. They also provide financial literacy information to current students with a goal of lowering borrowing levels for in-school students and lowering delinquency levels for students who have moved into repayment. United Way Suncoast recently completed the first year of funding of over $5.6 million in community investments utilizing a new investment process aimed at providing more strategic investments in the community, leading to greater impact and results for the area’s most vulnerable residents.

Pinellas adds 14 Covid deaths

The death toll from Covid-19 in Pinellas County grew by 14 people on Thursday. A total of 536 people have died from Covid-19 in Pinellas since the outbreak of the pandemic. Pinellas County deaths accounted for nearly 10 percent of the 148 new deaths reported statewide on Thursday. Only Broward and Miami-Dade counties had a larger number of new deaths on Thursday than did Pinellas. There has been a cumulative total of 18,329 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Pinellas County, including 112 new cases reported Thursday. The seven-day rolling average of people who have been tested for the virus and are positive was 4.9 percent, the lowest rate in several days.

Federal prosecutors in Tampa crack down on websites selling Covid products

The U.S.  Justice Department obtained a temporary restraining order in federal court in Tampa against three people who prosecutors said were seeking to profit from the Covid-19 pandemic. The defendants, identified in a news release as Thu Phan Dinh, Tran Khanh, and Nguyen Duy Toan, are accused of operating more than 300 websites that fraudulently purported to sell products that became scarce during the pandemic, including hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes. Thousands of victims in all 50 states paid for items supposedly sold through the websites but never received the purchased products, the news release said. The defendants also allegedly listed fraudulent contact addresses and phone numbers on the websites, causing unaffiliated individuals and businesses in the United States to receive numerous complaint calls from victims who had been defrauded by the scheme.  U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell issued an emergency temporary restraining order requiring the websites be disabled. All the defendants are from Vietnam, and Vietnamese authorities conducted their own investigation and arrested them, the news release said.

Tampa nonprofit opens St. Pete office to help women business owners

The Helen Gordon Davis Centre for Women has opened a satellite office in St. Petersburg to help female entrepreneurs and small business owners with training, education and counseling as they navigate the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. The goal is to make it convenient for women-owned small businesses in Pinellas County who want to apply for emergency loans and achieve greater economic security, said Ann Madsen, executive director of the Centre for Women. The organization operates the only SBA-designated Women’s Business Centre on the west coast of Florida and recently received a $420,000 grant from the Small Business Administration to extend services to business owners impacted by the coronavirus. One of the Centre's  business advisors will be onsite The Poynter Institute on Tuesdays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.. The building is currently not open to the public due to the pandemic so those interested should call the CARES line at 813-550-2022 to schedule an appointment or email cmedina@thecentre.org. The Women's Business Centre is one of six programs at The Centre for Women, a nonprofit based in Tampa.

Stein Mart closing stores after filing for bankruptcy

Stein Mart expects to close most, if not all, of its brick and mortar stores after filing a Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition.  The combined effects of a challenging retail environment coupled with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic caused significant financial distress for the company, Hunt Hawkins, CEO, said in a news release. The company lacks sufficient liquidity to continue operating in the ordinary course of business, and determined that the best strategy to maximize value would be a liquidation of its assets pursuant to an organized going out of business sale, Hawkins said. Stein Mart (Nasdaq: SMRT), based in Jacksonville, operates 281 stores across 30 states, including a store at 218 37th Ave. N. in St. Petersburg. Other local stores are in the Seminole City Center, Northwood Plaza in Clearwater,  33951 U.S. 19 N. in Palm Harbor, Briton Plaza in south Tampa, Lithia Crossing in Valrico and 13210 N. Dale Mabry Highway in Carrollwood. Stein Mart is evaluating any and all strategic alternatives, including the potential sale of its e-commerce business and related intellectual property, the news release said.

Pinellas County commission extends local state of emergency

The Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners on Tuesday extended its state of local emergency declaration for Covid-19 through Aug. 21. The extension of the declaration keeps in force a countywide ordinance requiring face coverings and social distancing practiced in indoor public places. Since the ordinance went into effect, there have been steady declines in the rolling 7-day averages for case counts and positive tests, public health officials said. The board also got an update on hurricane readiness during the pandemic. One key change this year could lead to fewer evacuations. Rather than relying strictly on the existing evacuation map, which assumes that all hurricanes carry the same storm surge risk per category, evacuations will be based on directional storms surge analysis based on the National Hurricane Center surge model data, according to Cathie Perkins, emergency management director. More shelters will be opened per storm category to facilitate social distancing, and the emergency management department has reached out to the Convention and Visitors Bureau and local chambers to identify area hotels that would be willing to convert their facilities into shelters.

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