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Fort Myers small business owners frustrated as city still hasn’t handed out stimulus money

After getting nothing from anyone in City Hall, from the mayor, city manager or city council, the city’s community development director agreed to speak with WINK News, but the public information officer shut down the interview and sent an email instead.

Frustrated, anxious and afraid, Courtney Attardo is one of nearly 2,000 renters and business owners in the City of Fort Myers, who hoped to get some of the city’s “stimulus” money.

City leaders originally hope to hand out that money to help with bills due May first.

“We’re already halfway through May which means all of the June bills are about to hit us,” she said.

As we approach June, the city still has not paid a penny in assistance.

Attardo said she’s heard nothing about her application for rent and utilities help. Neither has her husband who owns a printing company and applied for a forgivable small business loan.

“Me getting back to work, I can bring in my income again,” she said. “With his business not picking up and missing the end of the rush season kind of sucks for us because that’s how we get through summer.”

The city public information officer said in an email that there are 155 rental assistance applications in the approval process with the first batch of 30 payments anticipated to be distributed next week.

As for the small business loans, there are 22 applications going through the approval process with another dozen expected to be approved. Those payments are at least two weeks away.

“Somebody please give me a little ray of hope to help us balance stuff out and get back to normal,” Attardo said.

Before the city canceled our interview with the community development director, he said the city has not yet notified people who applied whether they will get any help.

Our hope is someone with the city will agree to answer questions so people who applied and are waiting can get the information they need.

You can read the full response fro the city’s PIO below:

There are 155 emergency rental assistance applications in the approval process, with the first batch of 30 payments anticipated to be distributed next week. The payments approved through the city’s program are sent directly to the landlord and utility provider(s).

  • Approximately 1200 completed applications were received, with about half of those residing outside of city limits who were subsequently referred to Lee County’s assistance program.
  • Approximately 100 of the applicants did not meet the income requirements and were also referred to the Lee County assistance program.
  • Payments are up to $750 per month for three months
  • The program was activated by the city through the reallocation of Community
  • Development Block Grant (CDBG), State Housing Initiative Partnership (SHIP) and local Attainable Housing funds totaling approximately $400,000.

There are 22 microenterprise assistance applications that have gone through the city’s approval process, and those applications are currently undergoing a final review required by the federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program prior to the release of funds, which is anticipated to take at least two more weeks.

  • Approximately a dozen more applications are pending income documentation.
  • More than 700 applications for the microenterprise program were received.
  • Applicants may receive up to $10,000 in the form of a forgivable loan under this program, so the fund will be able to help between 30-40 local businesses.
  • $400,000 was allocated towards this program through utilizing Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.
Reporter:Dannielle Garcia
Writer:Briana Harvath
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