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Posted September 18, 2020 | 8:07 AM

Residents Encouraged to Tell Favorite Small Businesses About Pandemic Recovery Funds

Some potentially qualified entrepreneurs unaware of Hillsborough County's Rapid Response Recovery Assistance Program (R3)

Mounting debt from a mandated shutdown threatened to put her South Tampa hair color salon out of business and her stylists out of work. Then Penny Magdziak heard about Hillsborough County's financial assistance for small businesses harmed by the coronavirus.

She applied for and received $10,000 to cover business expenses with no obligation to repay. When the County updated the assistance program, she received an additional check for $20,000 due to the prolonged nature of the economic damage.

"I couldn't believe it. I was able to pay all the debts I incurred from the shutdown," says Penny, who opened UbU Color Salon on Swann Avenue about 15 years ago. "I've always worked for everything I had. Never has anyone done something so wonderful."

The County's $100 million Rapid Response Recovery Assistance Program (R3) aims to help small businesses overcome effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Trouble is, owners of some potentially eligible small businesses don't know about the program, which is independent of other local, state, and federal assistance programs.

Hillsborough County is encouraging residents to spread the word about R3 to the small businesses they patronize. For shops like Penny's, a financial boost can be the difference between staying open or closing permanently. And the collective success of small businesses, which make up more than 90 percent of commercial ventures in Hillsborough County, helps ensure a robust economy.

By mid-September the County was reviewing more than $55 million in requests from more than 5,000 businesses. Applications are accepted through Dec. 1, or until the available funding of $100 million runs out.

Award amounts are tiered depending on the number of employees at each business. The money can be spent on a mortgage, rent, payroll, vendor invoices, utility bills, or any other qualified business expense other than those covered by insurance or another federal assistance program.

Professional business consultants are available at no cost to help small businesses find assistance. Contact Entrepreneur Services or call (813) 204-9267 to request a virtual or phone appointment. Subscribe to the ECC Newsletter to learn about more small business recovery resources.

Penny's hair color shop was closed from mid-March through mid-May. Since re-opening most of her clients have returned, and the business picked up a few new customers from shops that remain closed. But she won't forget the shutdown, nor the good fortune that enabled her to re-open. Thanks to financial help from Hillsborough County, along with support from her clients and stylists, Penny plans for her shop to be part of the neighborhood for years to come.

Photo: Stylists have returned to the re-opened UbU Color Salon, which received $30,000 in R3 funds from Hillsborough County to help recover from business losses during the pandemic.

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