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POLK COUNTY — Today marks the first day that applications can be submitted by Polk residents, families and small businesses for financial assistance through the county’s share of money awarded via the federal CARES Act.

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. Polk’s program for distributing the funds has been dubbed Polk CARES 2020.

Funds allocated to individuals, families and small businesses through this program do not have to be paid back. They will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

According to the program outlines on, individuals who have lost their job or income due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and who reside in a household with a combined income of less than $75,000, will be eligible for $2,000 in assistance.

The online application process will require any such residents to fill out a form and attach verifying documentation. For residents who might not have the access to technology to complete the process, county staff encourage those residents to contact the United Way of Central Florida by calling 2-1-1.

Residents must not have received other COVID-19 assistance for rent, mortgage or utility payments to receive the Polk CARES funds, per the guidelines.

Similarly, small businesses in Polk that can show they have been impacted by COVID-19 can receive funds from a tiered system based on how many people are employed by said business. For instance, a self-employed business owner can receive $1,000; a business that employs 2-9 employees can receive $2,500; and small businesses employing 10-25 employees can receive $5,000.

Some qualifications for the small business funds to be awarded include demonstrating a negative impact from the pandemic; having the authority to apply for the grant on behalf of the business; having not previously received funds from the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), Economic Injury Disaster Loan or SBA Debt Relief Program; and the business must plan to resume normal operations as emergency guidelines are lifted, among other things.

Grant funds are authorized for business expenses only and recipients must be willing to cooperate with Polk County or appropriate officials for grant auditing purposes.

A call center to assist residents 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 Saturday.

The number for the call center is (863) 298-7500. The call center will be closed for Memorial Day on Monday, May 25.

More detailed information can be found online at