Lakeland Chamber seeks $ 500,000 from US city bailout funds


LAKELAND – Lakeland has over $ 24 million in federal funding coming up, and at least one request has been made for a piece of the pie.

Lakeland commissioners will meet at 8 a.m. on Tuesday to discuss how the city should spend the roughly $ 24.38 million in federal funds it will receive under the American Rescue Plan Act. It’s part of President Joe Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion federal relief package approved in March.

The Lakeland Chamber of Commerce has asked commissioners to consider setting aside $ 500,000, or about 2% of the money received, to help small businesses owned by minorities, veterans and women in the city.

Small business owners in Black, Latino, Indigenous and Other Colored (BIPOC) communities, women-owned and veteran-owned businesses have had disproportionate challenges accessing federal assistance programs to mitigate the damage caused by the economic fallout from the coronavirus, such as the Protection Program paycheck, ”reads a July 2 letter that the chamber sent to all commissioners.

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Cory Skeates, president and CEO of the Lakeland Chamber, wrote in an email to The Ledger that he and the board are aware of several instances in which these groups have had difficulty accessing programs. COVID relief when initially offered.

The chamber has not kept a list of locally impacted small businesses, Skeates said, and he does not believe everyone involved has sought the chamber’s help. However, the problem that disproportionately affects these companies is not new.

“The US House, Florida House as well as the Lakeland House are aware of the associated challenges that the pandemic has amplified,” Skeates wrote to The Ledger. “However, these obstacles have been around for some time long before the start of the pandemic.”

The $ 500,000 request, if funded, would allow the Lakeland chamber to form a variety of partnerships to help these businesses, Skeates said.

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“Our plan would be to help companies strengthen their existing banking relationships as well as provide technical support services which are in high demand but are scarce here in Lakeland,” he said.

It was not immediately clear whether any of the money would be available in the form of business loans or grants.

In the July 2 letter, Skeates said the city’s funding would allow the chamber to contact the Tampa Bay Black Business Investment Corp., a nonprofit organization certified by the U.S. Treasury. The organization helps provide loans to small businesses that may not meet the more stringent requirements of conventional banks.

Skeates told The Ledger he has other potential partners and partnerships, but he wasn’t ready to reveal who yet. The chamber has promised it will commit to reporting on the progress of the program to city officials, if approved on Tuesday.

Sara-Megan Walsh can be reached at [email protected] or 863-802-7545.

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