Treasure Coast counties not eligible for CARES Act, advocating for small businesses
As most of Florida opens up to Phase 2 of its recovery plan, small businesses on the Treasure Coast continue to look for government assistance to help them through the economic downturn of the last three months.
Residents and small business owners may be hearing about funding from the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act — known as the CARES Act — yet no Treasure Coast county qualifies for the cash.
The CARES Act is for counties with populations more than 500,000, and that’s only 13 governments in Florida. Among them are neighboring Brevard and Palm Beach counties leaving some with the impression that the Treasure Coast governments aren’ty trying to get a piece of the pie.
“We cannot let our businesses think we don’t care or think we are unwilling to help, because we do and are,” Joan Goodrich, executive director of the Business Development Board of Martin County, said in an email to board members.
Goodrich explained that Martin County, like St. Lucie and Indian River counties, is at a “significant disadvantage” because of its population size to acquire COVID-19 relief funds.
Last week, Martin County sent a letter to Gov. Ron DeSantis, calling on the state to find a way to distribute money to smaller counties, where mom-and-pop shops are struggling. Administrator Taryn Kryzda said she hopes the governor can redistribute money the state receives to county governments.
Business Development Boards in the region are working to collect information from small businesses on what specific issues they are finding that are hurting their plans to reopen.
The Treasure Coast’s unemployment rate for April was 13.6%, the most recent available data. The drastic jump comes after the region was experiencing record-low unemployment numbers.
In Martin County, most jobs lost were in low-income fields, most prominently food service and retail, according to the Business Development Board.
In Martin County, 95% of businesses are small businesses, Goodrich said, meaning they have fewer than 20 employees.
Some, she said, are struggling with cash flow issues since it is not common practice to keep large reserves. With enough stimulus to get them over the hump, like CARES Act money, it could play a large role in determining their future.
“It’s significant for a small business-based economy like ours, and certainly the rest of the Treasure Coast,” Goodrich said. “It’s the bread and butter, and we need more bread.”
Joshua Solomon is a watchdog and government reporter covering Martin County. You can reach him at 772-692-8935 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Support our local journalism.