By LINDA CHION KENNEY
Hillsborough County is set to unveil a housing assistance program for residents struggling with rent and mortgage payments, due to hardships sustained from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the full access application period for small business economic recovery assistance was set to start in late July.
Through the County’s Rapid Response Recovery Assistance Program (R3), an online application for Åhousing assiÅÇstance is set to be available starting Monday, Aug. 3, with funding provided on a first-come first-served basis.
Details about eligibility criteria are to be announced prior to the Aug. 3 launch. Funding comes from the remaining balance of $12.1 million administered through the Hillsborough County Social Services department, which received $15 million for utility and housing assistance under the R3 Life Safety Programs initiative.
According to county officials, the funds are for residents who have experienced a loss in wages or are newly unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The lump-sum payment to eligible residents for past-due housing payments aims to help offset further financial hardship or additional consequences to living conditions. The amount will vary depending on household size and the timing of the resident’s pandemic hardship.
In addition to social services assistance, the R3 life safety category includes assistance for direct community services, including support to nonprofit and child-care centers and facilities for sanitation and social-distancing measures and direct access to testing sites and services, protective equipment and supplies in low-to-moderate income neighborhoods. Combined funding for life safety programs is $35 to $60 million.
Another R3 program, for Government and Community Facility and Operational Safety Improvements, provides assistance for such things as employee telework programs, enhanced sanitization, personal protective equipment and needs associated with hurricane shelter strategies in light of the ongoing pandemic.
Funding for R3 Economic Recovery Programs is broken down into four initiatives, with phased application periods. The Workforce Training allocation ($30 to $60 million) includes $25 million earmarked for CareerSource Tampa Bay short-term and on-the-job training programs and grants to assist residents in hardest-hit industries, including hospitality, entertainment, and food and beverage.
Kickstart Small Business ($60 million) aims to provide an infusion of capital for small business owners amounting to $7,500 or $10,000 per applicant. Back to Work ($26 million) is a payroll incentive for hiring and rehiring workers, with up to $2,000 per hired employee. Safe At Work ($20 million) is a matching reimbursement program, with up to $10,000 to help cover the cost of qualifying workplace improvements to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
The full access application period for these programs was set to start in late July. Remaining virtual information sessions for these programs are scheduled for Monday, July 27, at 9 a.m., and, in Spanish, at 10:30 a.m. Visit: www.HCFLGov.net/R3biz. Assistance also is available through the County’s Entrepreneur Collaborative Center. To request a virtual or phone appointment, call 813-204-9267.
Overall, Hillsborough County received nearly $257 million from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
County commissioners at their Aug. 5 meeting are scheduled to receive an updated report on the FY 20 budget amendment that appropriated $256,847,065 in CARES Act funding. The report is to include all programs, allocations and disbursements, as well as remaining balances of allocated funds for COVID-19 emergency relief and recovery efforts.
The report is to include funds planned for nonprofit assistance, as well funds distributed to the Florida Department of Health to support public health initiatives.
At their July 15 meeting, commissioners addressed measures to reconfigure and outfit workspaces in the Fred B. Karl County Center and other County facilities to allow for social distancing in the workplace ($3 million); to partially cover Hillsborough County Fire Rescue personnel expenses incurred during the COVID-19 response ($390,493); and to increase by $3.17 million money earmarked for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program to assist 3,283 additional households from June 1 through Sept. 30.
For detailed information about the Rapid Response Recovery Assistance Program (R3), visit www.HCFLGov.net/R3biz. Additional COVID-19 information available online at www.HCFLGov.net/StaySafe includes current administrative orders, closures and re-openings; testing sites and appointment registration; tips for staying safe; a digital toolkit for posters, door signs and social media graphics concerning face coverings and other preventative measures; and links to updated information form the Florida Department of Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The County’s online COVID-19 dashboard includes information on cases, testing and hospital emergency room visits and admissions. As of noon July 20, the dashboard reported Hillsborough had 23,706 confirmed cases and 238 confirmed deaths, with a 14-day rolling average positive test percentage of 16.16 percent. Hospital data is from the Tampa General Hospital Data Exchange, which has a two- to three-day data lag. Also, some area hospitals are not part of the TGH collaborative.