Signs posted by Safety Harbor Gifts and Antique on March 22, 2020 signal the impact of the coronavirus on local businesses. (Photo/Kathryn Malaxos)

County Program to Aid Small Business Off to Fast Start

in city hall/news

More than 2200 applications for $5,000 grants to help small businesses in Pinellas County were filed when the program kicked off on Monday, according to Pinellas County Administrator Barry Burton.

Burton reported to Commissioners at their Tuesday morning meeting that the program is moving forward smoothly with grant money going out soon.

The Pinellas County Commission has set aside $35 million to help “brick and mortar” businesses with fewer than 25 employees that suffered losses due to closure or cutbacks in service because of the COVID-19 virus.

The county estimates there are more than 6000 small Pinellas businesses, including many in Safety Harbor, that could qualify for a Pinellas Cares Small Business grant of $5,000 to cover things like employee wages, vendor bills and rent.

The goal is to get the grants awarded within 10 days. Burton said this is the first phase of a relief program that runs through June 1.

In the second phase, the program will be re-evaluated, and there may be funds awarded to businesses that are home-based, he said.

Pinellas County has $170 million grant to cover the small business grants and the Pinellas CARES Financial Assistance which is providing 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.

Burton said Tuesday that over 5300 calls were received Monday for the Financial Assistance grants to individuals seeking aid.

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.

Small business owners can get all the details about the business grant program and begin the process for obtaining the $5,000 grants by first going to

Walt spent 35 years as a reporter, feature writer. TV critic and columnist for The Tampa Tribune. Prior to that he worked in the public relations office at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and as a reporter for The Greenville (SC) News. He and his wife, Debbie, have lived in Safety Harbor for 10 years. He also taught media writing courses at the University of Tampa. Since moving here, he has been active with the Safety Harbor Art and Music Center, hosting a monthly storytelling night.