Small businesses in Hillsborough County financially hurting from the COVID-19 pandemic will soon be eligible for relief grants.
The county is making $100 million it received from the federal CARES Act available as part of its Rapid Response Recovery Program (R3). It will begin accepting applications June 30.
With these grants, the county hopes to “fill in the gaps of (federal and state) programs where local small businesses may have fallen,” according to the program’s initial proposal.
“We’ve done the best we can to dedicate this CARES funding to the betterment of our economy,” assistant county administrator Ron Barton said.
On Monday, June 22, business owners can create an application profile and review the details of three different grant options.
The first offers up to $7,500 for sole proprietorships and businesses with two or fewer employees, and up to $10,000 for businesses with more than two employees. Businesses with up to $3 million in annual revenue may qualify.
The second option will allow businesses to hire or rehire workers by offering businesses up to $2,000 per employee hired since May 1. Businesses with up to $20 million in annual revenue may qualify.
The third grant option offers up to $10,000 to reimburse business owners for the cost of workplace improvements to curb the spread of COVID-19. Businesses with up to $20 million in annual revenue may qualify.
Examples of workplace improvements eligible for reimbursement may include technology used to enable remote work or service delivery, personal protective equipment such as face coverings and safety training for employees.
The application process will be divided into phases to give a head start to businesses in “economically distressed areas.”
Business owners can check if their address is in an economically distressed area at HCFLGov.net/R3Biz.
Beginning June 30, the “early access” phase will open to provide grants solely to businesses located in economically distressed areas. Businesses with annual revenue of less than $5 million may qualify.
The “expanded access” phase will open approximately two weeks later. Businesses anywhere in the county with annual revenue of less than $5 million may apply during this time.
The “full access” phase will open approximately two weeks after the “expanded access” phase and remain open through December 1. Businesses anywhere in the county with annual revenue of less than $20 million may apply during this time.
Grant money is set aside for each phase to ensure all qualifying businesses have an opportunity to apply.
“We wanted to make sure that our business community was comfortable that the money wouldn’t run out,” Barton said.
Business owners can apply for grants for multiple businesses, but each business may only receive one grant.
Business owners may visit the application portal beginning June 22 to view a list of frequently asked questions. Consultants will be available by appointment to help owners decide what grant to seek.
“Help is on the way,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller.