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Pasco approves more funds for business grants, food and household expenses

Pasco was awarded $96.7 million from the federal CARES Act
 
Pasco County Government Center
Pasco County Government Center [ Special to the Times ]
Published May 5, 2020|Updated May 5, 2020

NEW PORT RICHEY — As the economic impacts of the coronavirus emergency continue into another month, Pasco County commissioners on Tuesday expanded their fund for small business grants and offered new help to pay bills and feed hungry residents.

Pasco County has been awarded $96.7 million as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help offset the impacts of the pandemic.

Last month, commissioners approved a program to provide grant money to help businesses that had closed and were already seeking government aid. In a day, the county got 1,461 applications. The $2 million set aside for the program was originally estimated to be enough to provide 400 grants. The application period has been closed.

"We had overwhelming success,'' said Bill Cronin, president of the Pasco Economic Development Council.

Tuesday, commissioners approved another $5 million for the program. The money will come from the CARES grant to fulfill as many of the remaining grant applications as possible as long as they meet the criteria. Each grant is to provide up to $5,000 to pay costs such as mortgages, rent, utilities and payroll.

Cronin said his agency has already been able to put $1.3 million out to businesses to help the local economy.

County officials also authorized $4 million to be set aside by the county administrator if the need arises to help residents experiencing economic hardship. That amount could potentially be increased to $8 million in the future. Those funds will also come from the CARES Act allocation.

"To qualify for relief under this program, applicants must be U.S. citizens, Pasco County residents, have applied for unemployment or lost employment because of COVID–19 and meet the income guidelines of 80% or below of the Area Median Income,'' said a memo by Marcy Esbjerg, community development director. "The assistance limit will be $3,500 per household.''

Those income ceilings are $39,400 for a household of one, $45,000 for two, $50,650 for three and $56,250 for four. The county is accepting 1,200 applications in this round on a first-come first-served basis. For more information, visit MyPasco.net/PascoCares. That portal for applications will open Thursday morning.

Commissioners also approved a program dubbed “Operation Feed Pasco.” The county will partner with the United Way of Pasco County, Inc., to distribute meals over the next two months to families in need. Those meals will be provided by local restaurants, which will help both businesses and residents. The county is setting aside $600,000 for that program through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"According to a recent survey, eight agencies have been identified requiring about 60,889 meals for a period of 60 days. This program will help expand the food already being distributed at the food banks,'' said a memo to commissioners from Cathy Pearson, assistant county administrator for public services.

The meals will be distributed through local food pantries. Commissioner Jack Mariano asked if county officials can consider adding another component in the future to provide home-delivered meals to senior citizens who have been on the waiting list for Meals on Wheels and who don’t have transportation to get to food bank locations. Pearson told commissioners there are still some local residents on that waiting list.

Restaurants interested in participating in Operation Feed Pasco can contact Madeline Colon, executive assistant for United Way of Pasco County at madelinec@unitedwaypasco.org or call (727) 359-7999 or (727) 835-2025.

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