An innovative plan proposed by the Carrabelle Redevelopment Agency could see business owners in the downtown area getting up to $1,000 in grants to help them pay for expenses during the coronavirus shutdown

Members of the CRA, which comprise the five city commissioners, and Rio Carrabelle owner Bo May, have enthusiastically backed the plan, drawn up this month by Mayor Brenda La Paz. A seventh member, Rob Powis, has had to step down from the CRA, due to his no longer being a stakeholder after the sale of his condominium, but his replacement is expected to be named shortly.

La Paz said that on April 9 the Florida Redevelopment Association alerted members of ways South Florida CRAs were providing aid to their local businesses, and she began researching what some of the ideas were, in cities everywhere from North Miami to St. Petersburg to Leesburg.

After attending an FRA webinar,, she settled on a model for grants coming out of Lake Worth called the “Quick Action Emergency Grant Program.” On April 21, the plan received encouragement from the CRA.

She ran it by City Attorney Dan Hartman, and gathered information that indicated that 40 businesses could qualify for the grants.

Each has to be located within the CRA, which extends, roughly speaking, from Tillie Miller Bridge into town, to one block to the north of the shoreline, and east all the way to Tallahassee Street, but not including the boat ramps.

Because each has to be located inside the CRA, this excludes such sites as the strip mall where Martin’s House of Coins is, the Franklin Inn, the Carrabelle Boat Club, Merrill’s Auto, Matt’s Small Engine, and Millender Seafood.

“It’s very unfortunate. We’re trying to at least help some businesses,” she said, noting that the city is working to extend the CRA boundaries but that is a lengthy process that could take several months, well beyond the time frame for this project.

Each year the CRA gets $120,000 in tax increment funding from the city’s property taxes, and about $75,000 from the county, and that money can’t be rolled over, but can be earmarked for multi-year projects.

The idea is to take from $75,000 in earmarked funding for Riverwalk on Marine Street, which includes reconstruction of the sidewalk.

From that fund, $50,000 would be moved into a new budget line item, and from that, CRA businesses would be eligible for up to $1,000 in reimbursable grants.

Businesses would have to show canceled checks or other proof of eligible expenditures, and have to show, through a water bill, that they operate in the CRA. Businesses could have anywhere from three to 20 employees, although La Paz noted that may be revised at the time of final approval by the city commission, which is slated for May 7.

Because of other public notice requirements, the earliest applications could be available is May 12, she said.

“We want to get the money out there as soon as possible,” La Paz said. “We don’t want utilities to be turned off and we don’t want you to be evicted.”

She said the plan now calls for business to have to have been open for at least six months, with one award per business. City staff would be empowered to approve or deny the applications.

Monies would have to be used to cover rent or mortgage payments, or utility bills, and not to cover payroll or supplies.

The program would sunset 30 days upon the expiration of Florida’s state of emergency. “We may extend that out to 45 days,” she said.

La Paz said the city will ask that businesses that got a loan from the Payroll Protection Program to not apply.

“If you don’t need the money, don’t apply,” she said. “We want to help you get through this crisis, to get back to what you are doing.”