Financial help for some Pinellas County residents and businesses hurt by the COVID-19 virus shutdown will be available soon as the Pinellas County Commission voted Tuesday to start distributing $170 million under a federal relief program.
The Pinellas CARES Financial Assistance Program will provide emergency payments up to $4,000 to help low-income families and individuals who have lost income during the COVID-19 crisis and cannot pay utility bills or housing costs.
And the Pinellas CARES Small Business Program will help small businesses with fewer than 25 employees with a one-time payment of $5,000 to cover employee wages, vendor bills and rent.
The money for both programs comes from a Federal grant to provide aid to those effected by the closures due to the virus outbreak. Both will run through the month of May.
To qualify for personal or family assistance, persons must be citizens of the United States and Pinellas County, have an income at 200 percent of the Federal poverty level, and have assets of less than $4,000.
That works out to $25,520 annual income and below for an individual and $34,480 income and below for a two-person income.
Commissioner Dave Eggers said that there are a “lot of people out there are hurting” who make more than $35,000 who may need help.
County administrator Barry Burton said the program is for emergency assistance for bills and not meant to replace income.
To begin the process of determining eligibility, people can text “COVIDCARES” to 898211. If they qualify, the money is paid directly to landlords, mortgage holders and/or utility companies.
The Pinellas Cares Small Business Grants program has $35 million set aside to help an estimated 6,500 businesses hurt by the recent shutdown.
Eligible businesses include restaurants, bars and other nonessential businesses. Not eligible are publicly-traded companies, home-based businesses, nonprofits and those with leaders who have “a felony or financial mismanagement conviction within the last two years for which he or she is still serving a sentence”.
The application period will be open between May 4 and June 1, and payments will occur within 10 days of approval. The applications will be online beginning Monday.
To qualify, the businesses must be in the county and have one to 25 full-time employees. Firms with part-time workers are eligible as long total weekly hours of all employees does not exceed 1,000 hours.
Owners with more than business that qualifies can submit applications for each business. The business has to have been in operation at least since October 2019 and still in operation since February 2020 and plans to reopen.