This is an uncertain time. But the office of Congressman Charlie Crist is working to make sure every Pinellas resident has access to the resources they need. Para ver esta página en español, clicque aquí.
Audio from Congressman Crist's Telephone Town Hall held on Monday, March 30th can be found here.
Audio from Congressman Crist's Telephone Town Hall held on Monday, April 13th can be found here.
Audio from Congressman Crist's African American Community Telephone Town Hall held on Tuesday, May 26th can be found here.
Audio from Congressman Crist's Seniors Community Telephone Town Hall held on Tuesday, July 7th can be found here.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed by the House and signed into law by the President puts to work every tool in the federal government’s toolbox to help the American people make it through this crisis.
DIRECT PAYMENT TO AMERICANS
Individuals making up to $75,000 ($112,500 for Head of Household, $150,000 for married/joint filers) will receive payments of $1,200 with an additional $500 payment per minor child (under 17). The payments decrease for incomes above $75,000, and stop altogether for single workers making more than $99,000 ($198,000 for married workers).
SMALL BUSINESS ASSISTANCE:
Individuals on Social Security and SSI are eligible to receive this relief payment. The benefit does not impact your eligibility for low-income programs.
How will I receive my funds?
It depends. For eligible folks who filed a tax return this year or last, and who used direct deposit, payments should start going out next week. For seniors or persons with disabilities on Social Security who get their benefit directly deposited, payments will start going out the week of April 20.
If you neither file tax returns nor receive Social Security, or if IRS does not have your direct deposit information on file and your address has changed, you will need to enter additional payment information for the IRS to deposit your payment. Submit this information here.
What if I didn’t file taxes in 2018 or 2019 or am not typically required to file a tax return? Can I still receive my payment?
Yes, in most cases. For Social Security recipients and railroad retirees, the IRS will use existing information to generate payments. If you currently receive Social security and do not receive those benefits via direct deposit, you can sign up for it here.
For people who typically do not file a tax return, you will need to enter additional payment information for the IRS to deposit your payment. Submit this information here.
How long will it take for this check to be delivered?
The Treasury will start direct depositing checks the week of April 13. Social Security recipients should look for their deposit to begin the week of April 20. For paper checks, Treasury intends to begin delivering by mail in early- to mid-May.
Will I be taxed on this check?
No, rebates are not taxable. They are technically a tax refund.
Will I be eligible if I have a lien against me, but I am in non-collect status?
Yes. Rebates will not be subject to garnishment, except if back child support is owed.
BOOST TO UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS
Unemployed or furloughed folks, like those who work in bars, restaurants, hotels and the other industries who have been hit hard across Pinellas, will now also receive an additional $600 a week in federal unemployment assistance, in addition to Florida’s $275 per week unemployment benefit.
If you were laid off or lost hours you should apply on the new Florida unemployment website here, or download, print, and mail in an application form here for your “Reemployment Assistance” benefit - the expanded unemployment insurance ($600/week) will be distributed by the state's unemployment insurance program.
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has developed a new, mobile-friendly website to resolve the issues claimants have had submitting their claims.
What if I’m not eligible for traditional Unemployment Insurance?
The CARES Act temporarily expands unemployment insurance to cover individuals who are not traditionally covered, including the self-employed, gig-workers, independent contractors, and workers with irregular work history. It also expands the list of allowable criteria for claiming unemployment compensation to include many reasons related to the COVID-19 public health emergency.
What if I’ve been out of work because of COVID-19 for several weeks already?
If you exhaust the weeks of unemployment compensation available to you through your state’s laws, you will be eligible for an additional 13 weeks of benefits. These benefits will be federally-funded, but you will still receive them through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
How long will the expanded benefits be in place?
Expanded eligibility for unemployment insurance will be in effect until December 31, 2020. A $600 additional benefit will be added to unemployment compensation received for weeks between when the bill is enacted and July 31, 2020.
The law will halt evictions for 150 days and foreclosures for 60 days, so that folks can continue to have a roof over their head as we make it through this crisis. The law also mandates penalty-free forbearance on your mortgage for up to six months if you are facing financial difficulty during to COVID-19. And best yet, they aren’t allowed to furnish negative information to your credit report for this emergency forbearance. Call your servicer/bank to take advantage.
The bill also mandates a 6 month, penalty-free halt in federal student loan payments and provides $900 million to assist with energy bill payments (residents currently having trouble paying their electric bill can contact the Pinellas Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program at 727-327-0977). If you have further questions about what’s included in the CARES Act, Senate lawmakers have created a helpful, comprehensive guide on the bill available here.
PAYCHECK PROTECTION PROGRAM
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) from the federally funded U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) helps businesses keep their workforce employed during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. You can find details from the SBA at: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/paycheck-protection-program-ppp.
The loan will be fully forgiven if the funds are used for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities (at least 75% of the forgiven amount must have been used for payroll). Loan payments will also be deferred for six months. No collateral or personal guarantees are required. Neither the government nor lenders will charge small businesses any fees.
Links below are to PPP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) list
Questions? Please contact the SBA's Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or your local lender.
FLORIDA SMALL BUSINESS EMERGENCY BRIDGE LOANS
BARTENDER EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE PROGRAM
Contact: (833) 832-4494
Information: The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program is currently available to small business owners located in all Florida counties statewide that experienced economic damage as a result of COVID-19. These short-term, interest-free working capital loans are intended to “bridge the gap” between the time a major catastrophe hits and when a business has secured longer term recovery resources, such as sufficient profits from a revived business, receipt of payments on insurance claims or federal disaster assistance. Apply at floridadisasterloan.org.
SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION DISASTER ASSISTANCE
Information: Small businesses can apply for a low-interest disaster loan from the Small Business Administration (SBA) here.
ST. PETERSBURG FIGHTING CHANCE FUND
Contact: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with "Fighting Chance Fund" in the subject line.
Information: To provide relief to small businesses impacted by local COVID-19 orders, the City of St. Petersburg has created the Fighting Chance Fund – an emergency grant for St. Pete’s negatively impacted locally owned and independently operated small businesses. This is a City program that provides grants (not loans) in the form of $5,000 to impacted eligible businesses* and $500 to impacted eligible individuals.
ST PETE GREENHOUSE
Information: Small business owners can access pertinent information, resources and assistance to help them navigate the COVID-19 crisis.
PINELLAS COUNTY BUSINESS RESOURCE SHARE
Information: Pinellas County businesses interested and able to donate, sell, or manufacture personal protective equipment such as surgical masks, gloves, or disinfectant/hand sanitizer to Pinellas County hospitals, first responders, emergency medical services, nursing homes and home healthcare workers can fill out this survey and drop off donations at the listed drop-off locations.
Information: Bartenders or families of bartenders are eligible to apply for emergency grants to offset economic distress from lay-offs, furloughs, or other coronavirus-related job loss.
FLORIDA SHORT TIME COMPENSATION PROGRAM FOR EMPLOYEES
Information: Voluntary employer program designed to help employers maintain their staff by reducing the weekly working hours during temporary slowdowns instead of temporarily laying off employees. If an employer establishes a Short Time Compensation Plan and an employee meets the qualifications to file a re-employment assistance claim in the state of Florida, the employee will receive a partial re-employment check to supplement their reduced paycheck.
NATIONAL MAIN STREET PROGRAM
Information: The National Main Street program has resources for small business and offers community support for those impacted by COVID-19.
Information: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, are suspending disconnections for nonpayment effective March 13, 2020.
TECO PEOPLE'S GAS
Information: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, TECO People's Gas is immediately starting a temporary moratorium on natural gas disconnections for non-payment that is in effect until at least the end of March.
PINELLAS COUNTY UTILITIES
Information: Effective March 16th, Pinellas County Utilities is suspending all disconnections of water and wastewater service for non-payment for at least 30 days.
ST. PETERSBURG UTILITIES
Information: Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of St. Petersburg will not be actively shutting off water for delinquent accounts in order to ensure proper hygiene.
If you believe you have come in contact with someone who has COVID-19 or are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 (most commonly fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath), call your primary care doctor for guidance.
If you do not have a primary care doctor or are uninsured, please contact the Pinellas County Health Department: 727-824-6900
FDA TESTING HOTLINE
Contact: 1-888-463-6332 (1-888-INFO-FDA)
Information: Health care providers with questions about testing or who are experiencing spot shortages of testing, personal protective equipment, or other supplies can contact this toll-free helpline to help address difficulties obtaining supplies for collecting patient samples for COVID-19 testing, including swabs, media needed for transport, and conservation of the samples. Please note, however, that FDA does not control the production volume or distribution of medical devices.
BIO CORONAVIRUS HUB
Information: The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) Coronavirus Hub connects companies and organizations that have relevant supplies, capacities, and resources to share, with those companies, researchers, or healthcare providers in need of those items.
NATIONAL COVID-19 MEDICAL EQUIPMENT CLEARINGHOUSE
Information: Hospitals or medical facilities in need of protective equipment like masks or gloves OR a business manufacturing these materials can use this website to match those in need with supplies.
PINELLAS COUNTY HUMAN SERVICES
Information: Pinellas County Human Services helps Pinellas County residents obtain access to medical care, emergency financial assistance, help connect to county judicial resources, optimize benefits for Veterans and Dependents, investigate consumer complaints, and help those who are experiencing homelessness.
Assistance with Your Financial Institution:
Several Banks have set-up contact lines to work with individuals impacted by COVID-19. If a bank is not listed below, reach-out to them to find out what they are doing to assist those affected by COVID-19.
ACHIEVA CREDIT UNION
BANK OF AMERICA
FIFTH THIRD BANK
INTERNET AND CONNECTIVITY:
CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS (SPECTRUM)
Information: Starting March 16, Spectrum will not terminate service for 60 days for residential or small business customers who face difficult economic circumstances related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Similarly, they will not charge late fees for those customers facing difficult economic circumstances related to the pandemic. Spectrum is also offering new customers who don’t have Spectrum internet two free months of internet and WiFi to help households with students in Pre-K to 12 and/or college with their remote education.
Information: Until further notice, Wow! will not disconnect services for customers in non-payment status.
FOOD AND NUTRITION:
Contact: Dial 2-1-1 or text FLKIDSMEALS to 211-211
Information: Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Commissioner Nikki Fried has expanded this program providing meals for children ages 0-18 in low-income families to those who are currently being impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Families can pick up meals at no cost from over 1,000 locations across Florida.
THE EMERGENCY FOOD ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (TEFAP)
Information: TEFAP is a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) food distribution program that provides nutritious, high-quality foods to low-income households. Food assistance for Pinellas families is administered through Feeding Tampa Bay.
PINELLAS FOOD PANTRIES
Click here for a regularly updated list of food pantries, including phone numbers and days and hours of availability, in Pinellas County. Photo ID or proof of residency may be required; some serve specific areas or zip codes. It is recommended that you call before visiting a site to ensure they are open.
Veterans enrolled for VA care who have symptoms of COVID-19, flu or colds (fever, cough and shortness of breath) are to contact the VISN 8 Clinical Contact Center at 1-877-741-3400 (toll free) prior to visiting their primary care provider. Veterans can also call for virtual care, including nurse advice and triage. There is no cost to Veterans enrolled for care in VISN 8 facilities.
AREA AGENCY ON AGING OF PASCO-PINELLAS
Information: Provides Medicaid assistance, health screening, victim advocacy, and case management for seniors.
NEIGHBORLY CARE NETWORK
Information: Home meal delivery is being completed with six feet of distance to protect the elder receiving the meal and congregate dining has transitioned into drive-through dining services. Drive through meal options are readily available for any older adult 60+.
PINELLAS COUNTY SCHOOLS
Information: While Pinellas County Schools are temporarily closed, all classes will be conducted through online learning via Microsoft Teams. Students can access digital education resources to prepare for and enhance their online learning experience.
PINELLAS COUNTY LIBRARY COOPERATIVE
Information: Residents with library cards can access the Pinellas County Library Cooperatives' digital library of eBooks, audiobooks, and videos through the Overdrive website or app.
PINELLAS SUNCOAST TRANSIT AUTHORITY
Information: Due to the growing threat of COVID–19 Coronavirus, The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) is temporarily going fare-free on all routes beginning March 19 until further advised. This includes DART service.