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Lee County commissioners approve 2nd round of LeeCARES assistance

Lee County commissioners on Tuesday approved the launch of Round 2 of the LeeCARES Assistance Program.

With the commissioners’ approval, more individuals and families are eligible to receive up to $3,000 in rent or mortgage assistance, while local businesses can receive increased grants for rehiring employees.

Grant recipients from the first round of assistance are eligible for Round 2 funding. Round 1 closes to applications on Aug. 7 and Round 2 opens Aug. 17.

WINK News spoke to Kari Fundingsland, who owns Kari Kardio, and she said her toughest decision as a small business owner came on March 20, right as the pandemic started affecting businesses.

“The minute we closed down, I went in and froze everyone’s memberships because I really didn’t want to charge people if they were out of a job,” Fundingsland said.

Classes or not, Kari Kardio was still on the hook for rent.

“That was challenging for us,” Fundingsland said.

Luckily her business was able to receive funding from programs like the LeeCARES Act.

“We were really surprised and happy that Lee County did that for us,” Fundingsland said.

An extra $5,000 dollars was enough to carry Kari Kardio and several other businesses through trying times.

Tone Allen, Chocolattés Store manager, said she is happy to see customers back in the dining room enjoying a cup of coffee

“We were supposed to have a busy season and it ended up being about 50% of that,” Allen said.

But she said Chocolatte’s is still recovering from the financial impacts of COVID-19.

“August and September are usually our slowest months so I don’t really know what to expect,” Allen said.

That’s why the search for additional funding isn’t over for small businesses.

“Anything extra will help us to prepare and anticipate that slow time,” Allen said.

Lee County is hoping the rehiring grant, increased in size by up to $8,000, could bring back nearly 4,000 jobs that were lost during the pandemic.

The board on Tuesday approved plans to:

· Launch Round 2 of LeeCares Assistance for individuals and families providing for broader eligibility and increased award amounts up to $3,000 per household. Grant recipients from earlier rounds of assistance are also eligible for Round 2 funding. Round 1 closes to applications on Aug. 7 and Round 2 opens Aug. 17.

· Enhance the Business Rehire program by increasing grant sizes by up to $8,000 awarded to each full-time equivalent rehire according to wages paid.

· Double the maximum scholarship amount allowed for each child that qualifies for childcare expenses to $2,500 in order to extend the program through the remainder of calendar year 2020.

· Distribute Personal Protective Equipment to county residents in partnership with the municipalities.

· Enhance CARES Act funding by $1.8 million for the existing Rapid Re-housing Program currently administered by Lee County’s Department of Human & Veteran Services; this includes adding additional partnering agencies to increase program capacity.

Visit www.LeeFLcares.com for additional information about all available programs and to apply once applications open.

Application instructions also are available in Spanish by calling 239-533-2273 (or 239-LEE-CARES); applicants without internet access can also call the number. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays. Please note, county offices are closed Friday, July 3, for Independence Day weekend.

Reporter:Janae Muchmore
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