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Tampa Announces Relief Fund, St. Petersburg Expands Its Fund

Buildings and sky
Courtesy City of Tampa
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced the 'One Tampa: Relief Now, Rise Together' fund Tuesday. It will look to cover rent, mortgage and utility relief for individuals, families, and small businesses in need because of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Tampa is joining other cities in announcing a fund to help small businesses, as well as families and individuals facing financial struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, St. Petersburg is expanding its fund.

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Standing in a mostly empty Amalie Arena Tuesday, Mayor Jane Castor announced the creation of the “One Tampa: Relief Now, Rise Together” fund.

After a video presentation on the arena's jumbotron, Castor spoke for about 20 minutes on the new program, emphasizing the city's responsibility to help its people.

“In times of struggle, we help our neighbors, and we take care of each other,” Castor said.

One Tampa will supply payments for eligible families and individuals to cover up to $1,000 for a month's rent or mortgage and up to $250 for essential utility costs for a month, Castor said.

For eligible businesses, it will provide up to $4,000 for rent or mortgage and up to $1,000 for utilities.

Qualifications for eligibility can be found on the One Tampa website. Individuals or families looking to apply will need to provide documentation of their income. Priority will be given to families with children or families who have experienced more than a 50% reduction in household income.

Businesses, among other criteria, must have annual revenue less than $250,000, no more than five employees and experienced at least a 50 percent reduction in revenue during the pandemic.

“This will serve as a lifeline and a critical bridge until the state and federal support becomes available,” Castor said.

The goal for One Tampa is set at $8 million. The program has already received numerous donations, including $100,000 each from the Tampa Bay Lightning, Buccaneers and Rays, Castor said.

The city will partner with the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and the Tampa Bay Chamber of Commerce to help meet the goal.

“We know many have fallen on hard times, but that's why we want to do all that we can to help pick you back up, get you back on your feet and lift that burden off your shoulders,” Castor said. “Our residents have enough to worry about during these uncertain times, which is why we want to alleviate the financial burden as much as possible while they are hopefully safely at home.”

Similar programs have already been launched in nearby cities.

READ MORE: How Small Businesses Hurt By Coronavirus Can Get The Help They Need To Survive

Tarpon Springs is also offering grants to local organizations, and the Sarasota County Commission voted last week to use more than $4 million in Economic Development Corporation funds for small businesses.

It would offer loans of up to $25,000 each, which would be both interest and payment-free for the first year and then repaid at an interest rate of 3.5% over the next three years.

Earlier this month, St. Petersburg announced its Fighting Chance Fund, a $6.8 million grant program for local businesses designed to help small business owners and employees get through the economic impact of stay-at-home orders.

The city is offering emergency grants for nearly 1,000 restaurants, bars and service businesses.

The city is opening up the fund to:

  • businesses located in St. Pete are eligible even if the owner does not live in the city,  
  • businesses have to have been open and operational for at least six months, rather than the previous one-year requirement, and
  • travel agencies, which are now included as a “personal service.”

Individuals will now qualify if they currently work or have worked for a business that is located in St. Pete and is in one of the four types listed in the requirements and the business contains 25 or less employees.

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The city has received about 1,800 applications so far and already awarded roughly $77,000 to businesses and individuals.

Kriseman also announced that he will be closing gathering spots like tennis courts, pickleball courts, skateparks, and dog parks in an effort to keep people distanced.

“Locally, the data is encouraging,” Kriseman said. “But until the curve is flattened, and we’re on the other side of the peak, this is no time to let off the gas. There is more we can do. And based on some behaviors of late, we feel there is more we need to do to stay ahead of the virus.”

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