NEW PORT RICHEY -- Recognizing hardships faced by Pasco businesses forced to close or curtail operations during the coronavirus emergency, the County Commission unanimously approved a $2 million emergency business grant program Tuesday.
Up to 400 Pasco businesses could benefit from $5,000 grants paid up front under the program. Businesses must have been registered and in operation by March 1 this year, must employ between one and 25 people and must have already applied for federal disaster loan funding — although there could be some exceptions to that rule.
"The mandatory closure of all non-essential businesses has created significant hardship for the local community and county economy,'' wrote David Engel, the county’s economic growth manager in an memo to commissioners. “State and federal financial aid programs are not adequate to assist many small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been identified that local businesses are a substantial component of the local economy and providing local emergency financial assistance will benefit the entire county.”
To be eligible, businesses and business owners must be in good standing, facing no active judgments, liens, bankruptcies, arbitration settlements, court order violations and other conditions.
The businesses will be able to use the funds for rent, mortgage, utilities and payroll and will have to show receipts during the compliance period.
Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said that she thought the program was important in order to be sure Pasco businesses were able to meet their basic needs. "How grateful I am that we are able to do this,'' she said.
The $2 million to pay for the emergency program will come from the Penny4Pasco fund.
Commissioner Jack Mariano called it “a brilliant idea” and just what voters who approved the penny sales tax initiative hoped to see from the funding.
Bill Cronin, chief executive officer of the Economic Development Council, told commissioners that he expected the funds to go quickly and that award will be based on a first come first serve basis. Applicants must be Pasco County residents and must provide proof they have applied for federal assistance. They also must provide their business registration, a full employee list and a drivers license or identification providing proof of residency at the time of application.
Applications can be made at http://pascoedc.com/pasco-grant.
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