Last week, distribution began for funds associated with the Polk CARES program, benefitting residents and small businesses impacted by the pandemic.

POLK COUNTY — Relief funding is on its way to Polk County’s small businesses and residents as the first checks from the Polk CARES 2020 funding were mailed from Bartow on May 22, just days after the county began accepting applications for funding.

“The Board wants to get this money to the businesses and residents who need relief in a responsible and expedited manner,” said Polk County Board of County Commissioners Chairman Bill Braswell. “This is what our community needs to help preserve our local economy and allow our most vulnerable residents the ability to provide for their families.”

The Polk County Clerk of Courts and Comptroller’s office printed the 84 checks, which totaled $121,500, and mailed them this past Friday in an effort to expedite the process.

Additional checks for individuals are expected to be mailed in the coming days.

Polk County has until Dec. 30 to award the funds set aside for residents and small businesses, monies which represents a significant portion of the $126 million the county received at the end of April.

Funds allocated to individuals, families and small businesses through this program do not have to be paid back.

“The CARES Act funds are providing important relief to our small businesses and residents who have been deeply impacted by this pandemic,” said Clerk Stacy Butterfield, Polk County Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller. “The processing and disbursement of these federal funds is a big undertaking, and it is our top priority to make this happen as quickly as possible. The Board of County Commissioners and I have pulled together staff members from our offices to facilitate this project. We have a dedicated call center as well as processing and disbursement teams working rapidly to get the relief in the hands of our businesses and residents.”

Through May 21, the county had received 3,760 applications from individuals and 1,013 applications from small businesses, which will account for about $1.5 million in funding once approved.

The Polk Board of County Commissioners allocated $40 million for small business economic development needs and $30 million for health and human service needs.

The remaining $56 million will be used for community healthcare related to the coronavirus and county and local government’s costs and services in dealing with COVID-19.

Both funds are offered on a first-come, first-served basis until the allocation is gone.

The online application process requires residents and business owners to fill out a form and attach verifying documentation with the application. Residents who do not have technology access to complete the online process may contact United Way of Central Florida at 2-1-1 to apply for assistance from Polk County.

The online applications for both households and small businesses are available on the Polk County website at www.polk-county.net/polk-cares-2020.

Residents may print the application and required documentation and either mail it or deliver it; however, applications submitted electronically will be reviewed quicker. Printed applications may be delivered or sent to the Communications Division, Board of County Commissioners, 330 W. Church St., Bartow, FL 33830.