Pinellas CARES Small Business Grants Frequently Asked Questions

TOP 5 Tips for Pinellas CARES Local Business Grant Applicants

Here are a few tips to keep in mind if you’re applying for the Pinellas CARES Local Business Grant:

  1. Collect your documents first and then begin your application here.
  2. Don’t rush to submit – the fastest way to get approved is to make sure your application and all documents are accurate and complete.
  3. Double-check that your documents are scanned and ready to upload with document signatures in place where applicable.
  4. Make sure you carefully review each screen before you select, “Complete and Continue.”
  5. If your application needs additional information or corrections, you will be contacted. But remember that a complete and accurate application will speed review and approval.
  6. Track your progress within the approval process using the case number that is assigned by the system.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to take their time to submit a full application, including all required documentation, for the quickest response. Grant awards will be made based on complete and eligible applications, not based on how early a partial application is submitted – submitting an incomplete application will delay the review process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Overview for businesses and the focus of the Pinellas CARES Local Business Grant

Pinellas CARES Local Business Grants offer emergency relief to small businesses in Pinellas County that have suffered a significant, temporary loss of revenue or jobs directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. In general, businesses that have been directly affected by state and local business closure orders, are eligible.  For a list of eligible business types, click here.

The program is open to a wider range of small businesses with gross annual revenues up to $3 million.

This current funding includes the following programs and there is a single application portal for all business grants.  Businesses are only eligible for one of the following types of grants:

  • Sliding Scale Grants of $2,500 to $10,000 grants for businesses with between $17,000 and $3 million in gross annual sales
  • Business Diversity and Arts Micro-Grants to help impacted businesses with barriers to participation in other grant programs
  • Health & Safety Matching Grants up to $10,000 to assist Target Industry businesses in implementing COVID-19-related upgrades and safety precautions

If I applied in the first round of the Pinellas CARES Small Business Grant Program, do I have to apply again?

Yes. Businesses may apply for this second round of funding and will need to fill out a new application and reupload the required documentation at the portal regardless of whether their application was approved or denied in the first round of Pinellas CARES Small Business Grants. 

Applicants who received grant awards in the first round of the Pinellas CARES Small Business Grants will have the initial $5,000 grant deducted from this second grant, if they qualify. This second round of business funding will generally only benefit prior awardees if the business’s 2019 revenues (as documented within 2019 Business Tax Return) were greater than $250,000.

Prior applicants may use the same user name and password to begin a new application for this program.

What can I use these funds to pay for?

The program will assist businesses that have suffered economic damages from business interruption caused by COVID-19 since March 1, 2020, that were not covered by insurance or reimbursed from any federal program.

Funds can only be used to reimburse the costs of COVID-related impacts. 

Grant funding can be used for business expenses, such as employees’ wages, mortgage, rent, vendor invoices, utility bills, payroll and other costs, so long as these expenses are not paid for by insurance or another federal assistance program.

These grants are intended to provide gap funding to allow businesses to seek additional assistance offered through state and federal programs for other losses not covered by this grant. Please visit for more business resources.

These grants may be considered taxable income, so please contact your financial advisor for guidance.

How do I know if my business suffered economic damages from business interruption caused by COVID-19 exceeding $5,000 since March 1, 2020, excluding those covered by insurance or reimbursement from any federal program?

Your business must attest and document that it suffered at least $5,000 in lost revenue and/or additional business expenses since March 1, 2020 due to COVID-19.

For example, you can consider how much revenue you expected to earn this year since March 1, 2020, and compare that amount to how much you have actually earned. You can also consider whether your business had new or increased expenses due to COVID-19. Expenses could include cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment. Remember, if insurance and/or reimbursement from any federal program will cover revenue losses or additional expenses, that must be deducted when calculating your business’s “economic damages”.

How much funding is available for small businesses?

Pinellas County estimates investing $49.9 million in local and small business grant programs. The assistance provided through these programs is not a loan and does not require repayment. 

The initial small business program (now closed) awarded more than $16 million in one-time grants of $5,000 to eligible small businesses forced to close due to state or local orders. 

The expanded Pinellas CARES Local Business Program offers a single, simplified application for businesses seeking assistance. The grants are open to a wider range of local businesses that were impacted by COVID-19 related closures.

Pinellas County based businesses that make $3 million or less in gross annual revenue may qualify for up to $10,000 in grant assistance based on a sliding scale.

Based on the estimated number of qualifying businesses, the County anticipates having sufficient funds to assist all eligible business applicants.

If I’m approved, how quickly will I receive assistance?

Complete applications with all required documentation will be reviewed. It may take several weeks from the date of application submission until an eligible business will receive the approved funding. Pinellas County is committed to helping our small businesses in need of aid as quickly as possible. Due to the widespread impact of the pandemic to our local community, we anticipate a high volume of requests.

What is the application deadline?

Pinellas CARES Local Business Grant program will close to all applications on Friday, Nov. 13. This deadline allows the county to meet federal guidelines requiring funds to be distributed by Dec. 30.

Where did this funding come from?

These funds come from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Congress designated a portion of funds to go to local governments to meet urgent financial needs within communities

Does my business qualify?

What types of businesses qualify?

A complete list of eligible business types with NAICS codes can be found here. 

Which businesses qualify?

Businesses that meet all of the following criteria are eligible for this grant.

  • Principal business address is physically located in Pinellas County
  • Operating since at least Oct. 1, 2019*
  • In operation as of Feb. 29, 2020
  • Not a publicly traded company
  • Not a nonprofit 501(c) organization
  • Expected to be fully operational after local/state emergency guidelines are rolled back
  • No unpaid code enforcement or other liens or court fees.
  • No owner, officer, partner, or principal actor of the business has a felony conviction for financial mismanagement within the last two years for which he or she is still serving a sentence (including prison, parole, and probation).   
  • Is not operating in violation of any state, federal or local laws.
  • Suffered economic damages from business interruption caused by COVID-19 since March 1, 2020, excluding those covered by insurance or reimbursement from any federal program

*Businesses started between October 1, 2019 and January 1, 2020 may be eligible for Business Diversity or Arts Microgrant Programs if they can document revenues prior to March 1, 2020.

Am I eligible if I meet some, but not all, of the eligibility requirements? 

No, a business must meet ALL eligibility requirements to be eligible.

Do home-based businesses qualify?

Yes, there is no requirement for a separate physical storefront.

What about hair salons?

Those with proof of a professional license indicating that you are a licensed stylist or barber with the State of Florida AND a business tax return showing that you file taxes as an independent business and not as any employee will qualify.

Are hotels, motels and short-term lodging eligible for this round of grant funding?

Only hotels and motels as defined by Florida Statutes and regulated by the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation (DBPR) are eligible for the grant.  Professional property management organizations, B&Bs, condominium units and single-family homes are not eligible.

Do Airbnb and other short-term rentals qualify?

No.  Only “Hotels” and “Motels” licensed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation qualify under this round of funding.

I own a condo unit in a complex at the beach and use a management company to rent it to vacationers.  Do I qualify?

No, you do not qualify. Only “Hotels” and “Motels” licensed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation qualify under this round of funding. 

Do contractors, plumbers and carpenters qualify for the Pinellas CARES Local Business Grant?

No, because they are an essential service and have been allowed to continue to operate.  This is true whether they have a physical commercial location or just operate out of their vehicles. Flooring, tile, door and window contractors also do not qualify.  However, retail stores that exclusively sell flooring, tile, doors and windows, or kitchen and bath cabinetry would qualify.

Do wholesalers qualify?

Maybe.  Businesses that primarily sell goods or services to non-essential retailers or businesses in the accommodations and food services sectors generally qualify. 

Do commercial kitchens, bakeries and caterers qualify?

Yes.  Businesses in these categories qualify in this current round of funding.

Do photographers qualify?

Yes.  Even freelance photographers operating out of their homes or out of office or warehouse space would qualify in this current round

What types of healthcare related services would qualify?

Only those that exclusively offer cosmetic or elective procedures.  Typically, these would only include med spa services such as therapeutic massage and acupuncture not under the care of a licensed MD or DO.  Clinics and practices of doctors, dentists, optometrists, chiropractors, psychiatrists, and mental health or addiction counselors would not qualify.

Do nonprofit organizations qualify?

No 501(c) organizations of any kind would quality for this grant. Non-profits that provide services directly related to COVID-19 may apply to a separate grant program administered by the Pinellas Community Foundation.  These services include feeding programs, homelessness, behavioral health and legal assistance to prevent evictions.

Will Chambers of Commerce and Business Associations qualify?

No. Business associations like chambers of commerce or industry associations are membership associations paid for by the dues of their members and primarily serve the interests of their members. These businesses were not required to close. This does not diminish the importance of these organizations within our community. 

Are charter boat businesses eligible to apply for this grant?

Charter Boats used for sightseeing, dining and recreational fishing were required by the Pinellas County Sheriff to cease operations. 

  • The owner should submit a copy of their captain’s license to document location and type of business.  Attach the captain’s license under the “Proof of Legal Operation” category on the application.  
  • Commercial fishing is considered essential and will not qualify for the grant.

Are businesses located in a shared work space or co-work space address eligible?

Yes. A retail storefront location is not required in this round of funding.

I sell my goods or services at a flea market.  Does my business qualify?

Maybe.  If your business income exceeded $17,000 in 2019 and you operate under one of the eligible business types, your business may qualify.  If your income was between $4,250 and $16,999, you may qualify for a microgrant.

Are realtors registered as S-Corps with their home address as a business location eligible?

Realtors do not qualify.  Realtors were specifically listed under Essential Businesses, and were not required to close.

Are churches eligible for this grant?

Churches are not eligible. 

I own one or more commercial properties that I rent to others for them to conduct business on the premises.  Do I qualify for a grant?

No.  Landlords do not qualify, whether the businesses to which they rent space are essential or non-essential. 

I purchased an ongoing business during the period between October 1, 2019 and February 29, 2020, do I qualify?

Maybe.  You will only be eligible for the microgrant program.  You will need to provide a copy of the signed Bill of Sale showing the date of the transaction falling within that period. You will also need to show sales activity prior to March 1, 2020 under your business ownership.

Why are only these types of businesses getting assistance?

These business types were selected to receive assistance because they were required to close by the “Safer-at-Home” orders issued by the Governor’s Office and Pinellas County or were severely impacted by these orders. For example, while restaurants have been allowed to remain open for carryout or delivery, this change in operations resulted in a significant loss of employment and revenues. Many restaurants were not able to adapt and closed entirely. Lodging establishments are another example. Typically, during spring break occupancy in hotels and motels would be about 90%. This year it was as low as 17%. That’s a significant reduction in income.  Wholesalers that sell primarily to non-essential retail establishments saw their customers disappear.  Target industries provide high-wage job opportunities and bring new money into the local economy.  Most of these industries are considered essential, but they had to make physical changes to their workplaces and/or provide personal protective equipment for their employees in order to remain open. 

Are only non-essential businesses required to close under the Governor’s Order eligible?

No, restaurants, bars, hotels and motels also will qualify, as will places of public and private assembly identified in the County’s “Safer at Home” order. Businesses that sell primarily to these industry sectors or to the non-essential sectors listed in the governmental closure orders may also be eligible to receive funding.  Finally, target industries may qualify for the Health & Safety Matching Grant program.

Sliding Scale Grants

Which businesses qualify for the Pinellas CARES Local Business Sliding Scale Grant?

Businesses are eligible for a sliding scale grant between $2,500 and $10,000 depending on the company’s gross receipts or sales in 2019, if it meets ALL the following additional criteria:

Gross Receipts or Sales in 2019
MinimumMaximumGrant Award Amount

What additional documentation is required to apply for the Pinellas CARES Local Business Sliding Scale Grants?

What documents are necessary for proof of legal operation?

One of the following documents will be required for proof of legal operation:

  • Local Business Tax Receipt:
    • If you are located within the city limits of a municipality that requires a Business Tax Receipt or Occupational License, you MUST upload a copy of your Business Tax Receipt.  Unincorporated areas of Pinellas County and the cities of Belleair Beach, Belleair Shores and Indian Shores do not require a business tax receipt.
  • Active State Business Registration from Florida Division of Corporations:
    If you are not required to have a Business Tax Receipt, you may submit proof of “Active” status with the Florida Division of Corporation. 
  • Other form of licensure or registration:
    • If you are not required to have either of the above, you may upload a copy of your State License from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation or Florida Department of Health, Coast Guard Captain’s License, Fictitious Name filing with the Florida Division of Corporations, Florida Department of Revenue Resale Certificate or other documentation.

NOTE: Eligible businesses without an applicable federal tax return may still apply and will be directed to microgrant programs.

What types of expenditures are allowed under the Health & Safety Matching Grant program?

Eligible expenses include the cost of physical changes to the work environment (e.g., new walls or partitions, UV lights in HVAC systems, etc.), cleaning and sanitizing supplies and equipment (electrostatic sprayers, hand sanitizer dispensers, etc.) or personal protective equipment (e.g., masks, face shields, sanitizing wipes, non-contact thermometers, etc.).  Software and technology upgrades to allow remote work are not eligible.

Copies of invoices and proof of payment will be required for all items for which you are requesting reimbursement.  The date on the documentation must be on or after March 1, 2020.  You may receive reimbursement for half of the eligible expenses up to a cap of $10,000 per business entity. 

The Application

Pinellas CARES Local Business Grant applicants must apply at the online portal with proper financial documentation.

Click here to learn more about the W-9 requirements, financial and tax documentation needed to apply.

Sample application  for educational and informational purposes only. This sample application CANNOT be used to apply for the grant. The application must be completed using the online portal above.  Please click “apply online” to apply for the Pinellas CARES Local Business Grant.

I own more than one business in Pinellas County. Can I apply for more than one grant?

Yes, you can qualify for a grant for each legal business entity. Each entity must have a unique business name.  You must provide separate financial statements for each location.  If you are a private franchisee of a chain of food or retail establishments, you will qualify.  However, corporate-owned locations of franchised chains do not qualify. 

I have a Parent Holding Company that owns several businesses.  How should I complete the application process?

You will file a separate application for each of the “Child” companies.  Use the tax form filed by the Parent to report income to the IRS (Schedule C,  1065, 1120 or 1120S) as the “Business Financials” documentation in Section E of the application for each of the child companies.  You will also need to file a Profit & Loss Statement (P&L) for each child.  Each child business must have a unique business name.  All grant checks should be sent to the mailing address of the Parent Company, and the Parent’s Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) should be used for the W-9 information on all of the applications. 

How does the application and approval process work?

The staff involved in reviewing the Local Business Grant applications will communicate directly with the applicants via email correspondence generated by the Neighborly Software system. This communication will include notices for eligibility, denial or if application revisions are needed.

Applicants are encouraged to use the online portal to check the status of their application. Once an application is approved and processed for payment, the business owner will receive a check via U.S. mail to the mailing address provided in the application.

How quickly will I receive my grant once approved?

Once an application is preliminarily approved by Staff, businesses can expect to receive their grant funds only after due diligence has been completed by the Circuit Court & Comptroller and the Inspector General’s office. Depending on the number of applicants, it may take several weeks from the start of application review until eligible business applicants will receive the approved funding.

Will my business be required to report how I spent funds that are awarded?

The County reserves the right to request such information. Also note that your business may be required to provide access to such records as may be necessary to prevent fraud or ensure compliance with federal requirements.

These grants may be considered taxable income, so please contact your financial advisor for guidance.

Can I apply for this loan through a local lending institution?

Local banks are not involved in the grant program, so no prior banking relationship is required.  Please apply directly through the Pinellas CARES Local Business Grant portal.

When I check for my application’s status through the portal using my case number, what do the various “Status” indicators mean?

  • Application in Progress: You are working on your application and have not yet submitted it.
  • Application Submitted: You have successfully submitted your application in the software.
  • Application Review in Progress: A reviewer is currently examining your application for accuracy, completeness and eligibility.
  • Returned for Corrections: A reviewer or auditor has identified some portion of your application or documentation that is missing, inaccurate, improperly completed or inconsistent with the grant guidelines. They are working to correct this issue and will get in touch with you by email if necessary.
  • Secondary Review in Progress: The first audit team is actively reviewing your application.
  • County Review in Progress: The County audit team is actively reviewing your application.
  • Payment Pending Final Audit: Your application passed the initial audit reviews and will undergo one final audit check by the Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller and the Inspector General.  If it passes this final step, a check will be sent to the mailing address on your W-9 form.
  • Application Not Approved: Your business is not eligible for the current grant program, or you were unable to provide the required documentation. 
  • Application Returned Due to Audit: The auditors have returned your application for further documentation, corrections or eligibility requirements and a reviewer or auditor will get in touch with you by email if necessary to correct the issue(s).

I haven’t filed my 2019 tax return yet. What do I do?

You may apply immediately for the microgrant program and receive assistance to complete your required documentation.  Alternatively, you can wait until you complete and file your 2019 return.  The end of the extension period for business returns is September 15, 2020.  For personal returns the extension period ends October 15, 2020.  Based on the estimated number of businesses that will qualify for these grants, we expect to have sufficient funds to award grants to qualified businesses beyond those dates.


Please note, the following programs are not under the purview or control of Pinellas County, but are resources from federal, state and municipal partners.

Businesses are encouraged to seek additional financial assistance for losses beyond what this grant may cover. The most up to date list of resources can be found here:

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program: The Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program provides unemployment benefits to those that may not otherwise be eligible under Florida’s state Reemployment Assistance program, including independent contractors and individuals who are self-employed. Individuals who have been impacted by COVID-19 and believe they may be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, can visit and select “File a Claim” to apply and be considered for PUA. Questions can be directed to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity at 1-833-352-7759 or view more contact information.


Phone: (727) 605-2944

For technical issues with the Neighborly Software, please email

Pinellas County has enlisted the assistance of Business Navigators to help applicants.  Please click here for a list of Navigators who can assist you.

Questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.  Due to the widespread impact of the pandemic on our local community, the County anticipates a high volume of applications.

To report Pinellas CARES Small Business Grant program fraud, waste, or abuse, contact the Division of Inspector General:

Public Integrity Unit Division of Inspector General
510 Bay Avenue
Clearwater, FL 33756

Call: (727) 45FRAUD (453-7283)
Fax: (727) 464-8386