Updated July 22, 2020

What is the Polk CARES Small Business Relief Grant Program?

The Polk CARES Business Relief Grant Program is designed to offer a lifeline to Polk County small businesses and non-profits that have a total of 50 employees or fewer, by providing up to a $10,000 grant to support continuity of business operations. The program is meant to serve as an alternative for non-recipients of federal programs. The Polk County Board of County Commissioners (PCBOCC) approved $20,000,000 in funding for the business relief program.

The Polk CARES Small Business Relief Grant Program application is now closed. The final day to submit an application for small business assistance was 11:59 p.m. on Friday, July 17, 2020. 

Is there a telephone number to call for assistance?

Yes, a call center to assist with questions regarding Polk County’s CARES Act financial assistance is available in English and Spanish from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. The telephone number is (863) 298-7500.

How is the business relief grant amount determined?

Business relief grants are determined by the number of W-2 employees and are awarded on a first-come/first-serve basis based upon eligibility.

  • $2,000 for self-employed or 1 employee
  • $5,000 for businesses with 2-9 employees
  • $10,000 for businesses with 10-50 employees

What is the definition of “employee” for this program?

An employee is defined as an individual who receives a paid wage or salary which employment taxes (e.g. FICA, FUTA) and income taxes are withdrawn and remitted to the IRS, as evidenced by business tax returns filed. For purposes of eligibility, independent contractors (also known as 1099 employees) may not be counted as employees for eligibility. A company that solely employs independent contractors qualifies as a self-employed applicant for this program.

How do I show how many employees are in my business?

The employee count is based upon what your business reported to the IRS via Form 941 or W-3 prior to February 15, 2020. Click here to learn more about IRS Form 941.

How soon will I receive the business relief grant fund check?

On average it takes approximately 10 days to 14 business days to receive the grants fund check by mail if the application is submitted with all required documents. However, it could take longer due to the large volume of applications.

The application is typically reviewed within 5 to 7 business days. Once approved, it will be submitted for payment and disbursement. If the application is incomplete, the applicant will be contacted for additional information. Usually, checks will be received within 5 to 7 business days after approval. A completed application with all of the required documents is the best way to ensure the most timely turnaround.

How do I find out the status of my application?

You can check your status at any time by logging in to your application here at the online Neighborly Software Portal. When approved, the application status will change to “Approved for Payment.” If the application is incomplete, the applicant will be contacted for additional information and the status will be changed to “Processed – Needs Additional Information.”

My business was approved at a prior grant funding amount. Do I need to reapply to receive the new grant amount?

No, businesses who were previously approved or received a check will automatically receive a second check for the same amount to make up for the difference.

Where do I apply?

The Polk CARES Small Business Relief Grant Program application is now closed. The final day to submit an application for small business assistance was 11:59 p.m. on Friday, July 17, 2020. 

What are the requirements of the business relief grant?

The Polk County Board of County Commissioners wanted to ensure the grant program is simple and can assist a broad range of businesses. The eligibility requirements for small businesses are as follows:

  • Have been in business prior to February 15, 2020 and have a total of 50 employees or fewer, including owners.
  • Were negatively impacted by COVID-19.
  • Is an active corporation / business or a nonprofit organization based in Polk County (Corporate, Regional, Division, Registered Office or Franchisee) and registered with the Florida Division of Corporations (where applicable), with up to 50 employees, including owners.

Exceptions

  • Companies that are publicly traded or partially owned by a hedge fund are not eligible.
  • Companies with legal actions against or from the County, including code enforcement liens are not eligible.
  • Pledge in good faith to resume normal business operations following the receipt of grant funding.
  • Companies that are owned by Non-US Persons.

Do I need to pay the money back?

No. This is a grant program not a loan, therefore the funds do not need to be paid back.

I’m applying for the Polk Cares Business Relief Grant. Am I eligible for the Polk Cares Individual/Household Grant too?

Yes, you are eligible to also apply for the individual/ household grant as long as you or your household meets the eligibility criteria.

What is the timeline to apply?

The Polk CARES Small Business Relief Grant Program application is now closed. The final day to submit an application for small business assistance was 11:59 p.m. on Friday, July 17, 2020.

Is there a list of what expenses are allowed under the business relief grant funds?

The program is designed to help businesses cover any legitimate business expenses.

How do I estimate my average monthly business expenses?

If you don’t have a monthly profit and loss statement, you can estimate them by taking your 2019 totals for each of these categories:

  • wages including owner compensation,
  • business utilities,
  • commercial lease (or commercial mortgage interest), and
  • total other expenses

Then, divide each category by 12 to get a monthly average.

How do I get assistance to apply for the business relief grant?

A number of community organizations are committed to providing application assistance. Please visit here for an updated list of providers.

Is the online application available in other languages?

The Polk CARES Small Business Relief Grant Program application is now closed. The final day to submit an application for small business assistance was 11:59 p.m. on Friday, July 17, 2020.

Will there be a paper application?

The Polk CARES Small Business Relief Grant Program application is now closed. The final day to submit an application for small business assistance was 11:59 p.m. on Friday, July 17, 2020.

I am a sole proprietor business and the only person working in my business. Does that disqualify me from this grant?

Self-employed individuals that are properly registered with the State of Florida (when required) or, at a minimum, hold a Business Tax Receipt (issued by the Polk County Tax Collector’s Office or by a Polk County municipality) are eligible to apply for the $1,000 grant as long as all other criteria are met. Additionally, self-employed individuals DO NOT have to submit payroll information.

My small business operates a franchise, do I qualify for the grant program?

Your small business operating a franchise qualifies as long as all other criteria are met. However, corporate franchise sites do not qualify unless their primary place of business (headquarters) is Polk County and all other qualifications apply.

I own several small businesses, are all my businesses eligible for the grant program?

Owners with multiple businesses may only apply for a maximum of two grants. Sole proprietors may only apply for one entity, if they use their social security number as their business tax ID.

How do I indicate that my business was negatively impacted by the COVID-19 emergency?

If your business was determined to be non-essential by Florida Governor’s Executive Order, you automatically qualify as long as you meet all other requirements. If your business remained opened but suffered a negative impact, you are required to write a brief statement on the application.

I am contesting a code violation or currently have a pending legal matter with Polk County. Do I qualify for the program?

Companies with legal actions against or from the County, including code enforcement liens are not eligible for the grant program.

What type of payroll information is required for companies that have a total of 2 to 50 employees?

One of the following two forms is sufficient proof of employee count: IRS Form 941 (Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return) or IRS Form W-3 (Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements). You may provide your December 31, 2019 or March 31, 2020 filings.

I have received funding from PPP, EIDL or other stimulus program. Do I qualify for this grant?

Yes, your business is still eligible.

One of the stipulations is that we have to resume normal business operations after the emergency guidelines are lifted. Although I intend for my business to be open again, the doors are currently closed. Does this disqualify me for the business relief grant?

Having your doors closed currently does not disqualify you for the program, so long as your business can resume normal operations after the emergency guidelines are lifted.

What documents are required for self-employed applicants?

Our intent is to minimize the application and processing time. Your ability to provide complete and accurate information will help expedite your application. With that in mind, we have developed a brief application and minimum business requirements to ensure a quick turnaround.

  • A scanned copy or picture of each owner’s State-issued driver’s license or State-issued photo ID (may be a .pdf or a .jpeg file);
  • Copy of active state business registration from Florida Division of Corporations or a Polk County Business Tax Receipt or a city issued business tax receipt. See the “My business is not required to have a State of Florida Business Filing” below for other options. (May be a screenshot, .jpeg, or .pdf); and
  • A completed and signed IRS W-9 form.

What documents are required for businesses with 2 to 50 employees?

  • A scanned copy or picture of each owner’s State-issued driver’s license or State-issued photo ID (may be a .pdf or a .jpeg file);
  • Copy of active state business registration from Florida Division of Corporations or a Polk County Business Tax Receipt or a city issued business tax receipt. See the “My business is not required to have a State of Florida Business Filing” below for other options. (May be a screenshot, .jpeg, or .pdf); and
  • A copy of your last IRS filing W3 or 941 showing employees on the payroll prior to February 15, 2020 (filings dated 12/31/19 or 3/31/20 will suffice); and
  • A completed and signed IRS W-9 form.

My business is not required to have a State of Florida Business Filing. How do I prove that I operate an active business?

This requirement is intended to provide proof that the business is active and in good standing. Sole proprietors operating under the owner’s legal name are not required to file with the State of Florida, but all other entities/ business structures (including those working under a DBA of fictitious name) are required to have a State of Florida Business Filing.

  • Sole proprietors may provide a copy of your Business Tax Receipt from the Polk County Tax Collector website (click on “Local Business Tax Receipts” and then on the search link- follow instructions). Alternatively, you may provide a copy or your local municipality Business Tax Receipt or occupational license.
  • State and County Exemptions
    • Agricultural businesses are exempt from filing with the County but not with the State of Florida, except for sole proprietor businesses. Sole proprietors that operate an agricultural business may provide the Schedule F of their IRS 1040 form.
    • Real estate sales associates are also exempt from filing with the County and may provide the Schedule C of their IRS 1040 form.
    • Special Situations: Self-employed individuals and sole proprietors may have been unaware of the requirement to file with the Tax Collector for Polk County for the Business Tax Receipt:
      • We will accept the Schedule C of the applicant’s 1040 (preferably 2019, but 2018 is acceptable) as proof that the business was in operation.
      • AND The applicant may file now with the City or the County for a tax receipt and submit it as proof that the business is in good standing.
      • Under these conditions, the applicant is required to produce BOTH documents, as each complies with a different requirement (business operational vs. business in good standing).
  • 501(c)3 and 501(c)6 organizations, while exempt from local filing, are required to submit their required State of Florida Filing.

What is the website for the State of Florida Business Filing?

The State of Florida business filing can be downloaded here.

What is the website for the IRS Form W-9?

You may download a blank IRS form W-9 from this website here.

Make sure to sign and completed before uploading or sending the completed form.

I’m a foreign national, owner of a business in Polk County. Am I eligible?

Applicants must be a United States Person for U.S. tax purposes per the IRS, including a citizen or resident of the United States, a domestic LLC, a domestic partnership, or a domestic corporation (ITIN holders are not eligible per updated guidelines).

What information do I have to fill out on the IRS Form W-9?

All businesses are required to fill out items 1, 3, 4, 5, and 6. Item 2 is required only when applicable and item 7 is not required.

What happens when all the business relief grant program funding is awarded?

The Polk County Board of County Commissioners designed the program to give temporary relief to small businesses negatively impacted by Covid-19. If additional funding becomes available, the commission has the option to develop future programs.

What other resources are available to my business?

Economic Development Organizations and Chambers throughout the county are working around the clock with state and federal partners to monitor the changing legislation and business resources. The Central Florida Development Council has compiled information on its business recovery resource center web page here.

Is the amount of the grant enough to help our local businesses?

The program is meant to serve as temporary support for small businesses that have not received federal benefits during these first critical weeks of the COVID-19 emergency and the goal is to help as many small businesses in Polk County as possible. We will continue to work with state and federal partners to help local businesses.

What else is Polk County and its resource partners doing to support small businesses during the pandemic?

To continue supporting local businesses in Polk County during the COVID-19 emergency, the local chambers of commerce and other business resource partners have established initiatives to encourage residents to support local businesses while practicing social distancing to minimize the spread of Coronavirus. Additionally, businesses that apply for this grant program are eligible to receive technical assistance for business planning, finance, marketing, emergency planning, and other areas through the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE) and the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC).