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Florida's Hurricane Tax 'Holiday' Begins Friday

Travel Bad

TALLAHASSEE — Starting Friday, shoppers in Florida emerging from coronavirus stay-at-home orders can avoid paying sales taxes while putting together disaster preparation stockpiles for the 2020 hurricane season.

In addition to helping residents buy everything from coolers to generators, Florida Retail Federation President and CEO Scott Shalley hopes the seven-day tax “holiday” can provide a boost for businesses suffering from the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think you're going to see, again, additional incentives from the retailers to encourage sales for disaster preparation,” Shalley said. “You'll continue to see, of course, all of the safe and smart shopping measures in terms of social distancing and sanitizing. But you're going to see an emphasis on sales of batteries, coolers and those sorts of things that help people get prepared now.”

The state-discounted items will coincide with wider hurricane-season enticements, some already being offered online, from businesses such as Lowe’s, Home Depot and Harbor Freight.

Still, federal officials have expressed concern about people being prepared for disasters this year. Hurricane season will start Monday and continue through Nov. 30.

Basic electronics
Pack an extra phone charger in case you’re fortunate enough to have electricity, and a portable battery pack in case you’re not. Also stash a long-lasting LED flashlight. Pack a small hand-cranked or battery-operated AM/FM radio (with extra batteries).

Personal needs
While getting ready for a typical day, list every toiletry you use, then buy a travel-size version of each. Pack backup eyeglasses, as well as a first-aid kit, baby wipes and a multipurpose tool with a knife and can opener.

Clothing
Pack a few days’ worth. Include layers you can add or remove, plus lightweight rain gear and waterproof boots.

Your meds
Pack about three days’ worth of each of your prescriptions, which should last until you can get to a pharmacy that’s open. If you need larger items, such as an oxygen tank, make sure you have a portable version.

The perfect bag
Think small and portable. A backpack is ideal, but a lightweight suitcase with wheels will also do. Just remember, you may literally be running with it.

Paperwork
Fill a zip-top waterproof bag with photocopies of your birth certificate; driver’s license; Social Security and Medicare cards; power of attorney and will; any marriage, adoption or naturalization certificates; proof of address; insurance, medical and immunization records; and information about your credit and ATM cards.

Food and drink
Bottled water is essential. Granola or energy bars are great because they are small and filling, and they come in a variety of flavors.

Cash
In addition to enough money for a few days, include small bills and a roll of quarters. If you need to buy something out of a vending machine, you don’t want to start asking equally desperate strangers for change.

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Treasure Coast Food Bank Increases Local Distribution of Fresh Produce With $250,000 Walmart Grant

20 May Walmart

Almost daily, a refrigerated box truck emblazoned with the words “Working together for hunger relief” makes a run across the Treasure Coast picking up and delivering fresh produce.

The truck is part of an enhanced supply chain at Treasure Coast Food Bank made possible with a $250,000 grant from Walmart. The Walmart Strategic Produce Investment Grant is intended to support Treasure Coast Food Bank’s efforts to increase the amount of high-quality produce getting into the hands of people who struggle with hunger.

“We’ve always had a goal of getting Florida-grown fresh produce to people who struggle with hunger,” said Judith Cruz, President and CEO of Treasure Coast Food Bank. “Making that happen requires refrigerated trucks, and refrigerated storage so fresh produce remains fresh until it’s in the hands of people who need it. Walmart understands the importance of the supply chain, and we’re thankful to be working together with Walmart for hunger relief.”

The refrigerated box truck is smaller than others in Treasure Coast Food Bank’s fleet, so it efficiently collects smaller allotments of produce that otherwise might go to waste. It’s also used to efficiently deliver allotments of produce and other perishable products to partner agencies.

The grant also paid for other fixtures and equipment, including 17 small refrigerators that were placed with partners across the Treasure Coast to create convenient produce access points.

“We work with hundreds of partners across our four-county service area, but not all of them have cool storage for food,” Cruz said. “These small refrigerators enable us to deliver fresh produce to areas of the Treasure Coast that are convenient for people in need of food.”

USDA to Provide $1 Billion in Loan Guarantees for Rural Businesses and Ag Producers

20 May Indiantown Chamber Logo

WASHINGTON – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced that the Department is making available up to $1 billion in loan guarantees to help rural businesses meet their working capital needs during the coronavirus pandemic. Additionally, agricultural producers that are not eligible for USDA Farm Service Agency loans may receive funding under USDA Business & Industry (B&I) CARES Act Programprovisions included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

“Under the leadership of President Trump, USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural businesses and agricultural producers and being a strong supporter of all aspects of the rural economy,” Secretary Perdue said. “Ensuring more rural agricultural producers are able to gain access to much-needed capital in these unprecedented times is a cornerstone of that commitment.”

In addition to expanding eligibility to certain agricultural producers, the changes Secretary Perdue announced today allow USDA to:

Provide 90 percent guarantees on B&I CARES Act Program loans;
Set the application and guarantee fee at two percent of the loan;
Accept appraisals completed within two years of the loan application date;
Not require discounting of collateral for working capital loans, and
Extend the maximum term for working capital loans to 10 years.
B&I CARES Act Program loans must be used as working capital to prevent, prepare for or respond to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The loans may be used only to support rural businesses, including agricultural producers, that were in operation on Feb. 15, 2020.

USDA intends to consider applications in the order they are received. However, the Department may assign priority points to projects if the demand for funds exceeds availability.

USDA announced the expanded B&I CARES Act Program authorities in a notice published in the May 21 Federal Register (PDF, 217 KB). Program funding expires Sept. 30, 2021.

Eligible applicants may contact their local USDA Rural Development State Office in the state where the project is located.

USDA is developing application guides for lenders and borrowers on the B&I CARES Act Program. The Agency also will host two webinars to provide an overview of program requirements.

To register for the webinar on Wednesday, May 27 at 3:30 p.m. Eastern Time, visitglobalmeet.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1322642&tp_key=7a700acddd.

To register for the webinar on Wednesday, June 3 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time, visitglobalmeetwebinar.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1324161&tp_key=6067315417.

USDA Rural Development provides loans and grants to help expand economic opportunities and create jobs in rural areas. This assistance supports infrastructure improvements; business development; housing; community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care; and high-speed internet access in rural areas. For more information, visit www.rd.usda.gov.

If you’d like to subscribe to USDA Rural Development updates, visit our GovDelivery subscriber page.

Short-Term Vacation Rental Plan Approved for Martin County

19 July MC Commissioners logo

The Martin County Office of Tourism and Marketing is pleased to announce that the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) has approved the short-term vacation rental plan that was submitted following its approval at the Board of County Commissioners meeting on Tuesday, May 19.

Per the Governor's Executive Order 20-123, all counties seeking to reopen vacation rentals were required to submit a written request and rental safety plan to DBPR Secretary Halsey Beshears for review and approval.

In developing the plan, Martin County staff reviewed the guidelines recommended by the Florida Vacation Rental Management Association along with plans already submitted by several other counties. The team also spoke with several local management companies to review expectations and deliverables.

"We appreciate the Martin County BOCC's support and thank Secretary Beshears and the team at the Department of Business and Professional Regulation for the quick review and approval of this plan. Tourism is a vital industry in Martin; for every tourism dollar spent in Martin County, 65 cents stays local. The loss of revenue incurred by the inability to offer short-term rentals impacted not only the businesses and individuals responsible for these rentals but had a negative impact on the entire tourism economy in Martin County. We look forward to welcoming visitors to our destination while doing so safely and within the CDC guidelines," said Tourism Director Nerissa Okiye.

The plan presented to the Secretary would allow for short-term vacation rental reservations and the acceptance of arriving guests in Martin County beginning today, May 22, 2020. Plan specifics, related to reservations, health and safety and cleanliness, can be found here.

For information or questions regarding the reopening plan, owners and managers should contact the Martin County Office of Tourism and Marketing at 772-288-5445.

Martin County Works With Legislative Delegation to Correct COVID-19 Data Reporting

20 May Martin Recovery Logo

After notification about a technical issue with COVID-19 data reported by the Florida Department of Health, Martin County is changing the way they share that information. Martin County has been sharing that data through a daily report and linking to it through the Martin County COVID-19 Dashboard. “We have been notified by the Florida Department of Health (FDOH), of a backlog of negative test results that have been entered into the system. This means that some of the current negative test results returned from private facilities are not being displayed on the FDOH COVID-19 dashboard, which can impact the overall positivity rate for the county,” said Taryn Kryzda, Martin County Administrator.

Martin County worked with their legislative delegation – Senator Gayle Harrell, Representative MaryLynn Magar and Representative Toby Overdorf – to address the situation. Their collective efforts quickly moved this issue to the forefront. Today, FDOH is working diligently to correct the issue and working toward a comprehensive solution to ensure this backlog does not occur again.

Senator Gayle Harrell stated, “Testing for COVID 19 is one of the most important tools we have to stop this pandemic and I am very pleased that we have significantly increased the amount of testing we are doing in Martin County and across the state of Florida. The time for processing tests varies greatly with the type of test used and the processing laboratory capacity. Accurate and timely reporting of these test results is extremely important but can be very complicated given the different types of tests and specific technology used for processing the tests by various labs.

I have been in direct communication with Surgeon General Rivkees concerning the recent delay and backlog in reporting the results of a specific type of test in Martin County. The reporting mechanism used by Abbott Laboratory does not interface directly with the DOH MERLIN system. Dr. Rivkees and the Dept. of Health are working diligently to resolve this problem. He has assured me that all backlogged test results will be updated into the state dashboard within the next 24 hours even if they have to be entered manually by the Dept. of Health.

I would like to encourage anyone who is concerned that they have been exposed to COVID 19 to get tested as soon as possible and practice social distancing and self-quarantine until they receive the results.”

Representative Toby Overdorf reached out to state contacts to work toward a resolution. “After coordinating with Martin County and State DOH partners, I am thrilled the issue is being addressed in a timely manner so that we can have accurate reporting of the testing within Martin County,” said Overdorf.

In order to present the most accurate data, Martin County has chosen to discontinue creating a daily report and will no longer share a county-specific dashboard. Each day the county will only provide the FDOH County Report and FDOH Dashboard.

Adding her support to ensuring the integrity of the data, Representative MaryLynn Magar said, “The data we collect is very important to the safety of our communities, especially as we increase testing. I am glad this issue is being resolved quickly as the Department of Health consistently works to improve the accuracy of the data for the state of Florida.”

St. Lucie Habitat for Humanity Joins International Homes, Communities, Hope + You Campaign to Help St. Lucie County Build Back from COVID-19

20 Mar St Lucie Habitat Logo

Fort Pierce – As the world continues to grapple with the public health crisis and the economic impact of COVID-19, the importance of a place to call home has never been more pronounced.

Since 1995, St. Lucie Habitat for Humanity has supported families in St. Lucie County through many adversities. Now, in these very challenging times, St. Lucie Habitat for Humanity is ready once again to offer a hand up to families in need of safe, decent and affordable homes. Through the Homes, Communities, Hope + You campaign, Habitat for Humanity will raise funds to support more families who need access to the opportunities that an affordable home provides.

“Habitat’s goal is to create the foundation for families to achieve strength, stability and self-reliance,” said Bob Calhoun, Executive Director of St. Lucie Habitat for Humanity. “The COVID-19 pandemic has severely tested all, and some in our Habitat community have been deeply affected by the economic stresses of cut hours and workplace insecurity. Of those who have brought their concerns to us, two families have independently solved the issues and four households are working with us to maintain their mortgages and homes. So, our work has adapted and creating opportunity is two-fold. First, taking additional stewardship of the stability of current homeowners during the COVID-19 pandemic, and second, bolstering affordable housing opportunities for even more families in St. Lucie County.”
Funds raised through this campaign will go toward our Mortgage Relief Fund which helps homeowners financially impacted by COVID-19 remain current on their mortgage payment.

The Homes, Communities, Hope + You campaign is a unique opportunity for Habitat organizations all around the world to unite as a global network to galvanize communities and emerge from this crisis stronger together. The campaign will feature Habitat doing what it does best: building security and stability, building back the economy, reconnecting communities, and creating hope.

“Habitat for Humanity is needed now more than ever,” said Jonathan Reckford, CEO of Habitat for Humanity International. “The world was already experiencing a housing crisis long before COVID-19. The pandemic has only made our work more urgent. Our neighbors need our help to build back, and we need your support as we work toward a world where everyone has a safe, decent and affordable place to live.”

More details about Habitat’s Homes, Communities, Hope + You campaign is available at www.stluciehabitat.org.

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Free Meals for Children: Tuesdays and Thursdays

20 May Free Meals

Free “Grab and Go” Meals are available on Tuesday and Thursday from 11 am-1 pm. The multi-day meal packages contain 2 breakfasts and 2 lunches on Tuesday and 3 breakfasts and 3 lunches on Thursday. Feeding Locations North County C.A. Moore Ft. Pierce Westwood Academy Frances K. Sweet Elementary Lakewood Park Elementary St. Lucie Elementary

Lowe's Home Improvement Helping Exceptional Students

Apr Lowes Logo
Apr Lowes Photo

A huge shoutout goes to Lowe's Home Improvement for helping our Exceptional Student Education Department during the Coronavirus pandemic and our time of need!

Dave Newman from Lowe's used his creative engineering skills to fabricate a tabletop barrier for our school psychologists and therapists to use so that they can conduct e3ssential evaluations with our students in a safe manner.

The Lowe's team not only engineered and built the barrier, but DONATED the materials and their time!

Please join us in thanking Nick Bryant, Dave Newman and Oscar Hance for their commitment to being such wonderful community partners.

The 10th Annual Molly’s House Polo Classic

Apr Mollys House 1

The 10th Annual Molly’s House Polo Classic presented by The Herold-Cadorette Family was held on a very windy March 7 at the Port Mayaca Polo Club whose space by graciously donated by the Orthwein Family.

The Polo Classis is a fundraiser for the non-profit, a hospital hospitality house located in downtown Stuart that was inspired by Molly Sharkey and built in her memory by the community.

Its mission is to provide temporary affordable accommodations to adults and children – and their families – while they are receiving medical care here on the Treasure Coast.

VIP guests were served a delicious paella lunch while they enjoyed a beautiful Dressage presentation by Katie Robicheaux of L’Acadiane Equine Management while riding Galandro, a nine-year old Dutch Warmblood owned by Dr. Kathleen Faulker of Dover, Mass. This was sponsored by Ed Peavy and Becky Reno.

Tailgaters were also enjoying their favorite repasts while watching the presentation.

After a two-chucker men’s polo match, the traditional champagne divot stomp was led for both sides by sponsor Frank M. Byers, Jr. and Polo Committee Chair Karen Rodgers. Attendees also enjoyed a Best Hat Contest won by Theresa Pare, Meet and Greet with a Polo Pony sponsored by Cleveland Clinic-Martin Health, car show as well as “Molly Moments” where Robert Partridge spoke about his experience staying at Molly’s House while undergoing therapy. Board Member Steve Pinnacoli also shared exciting news with the group of Betsy Herold’s $1 million-dollar gift to start Molly’s House Capital Campaign to build a new wing at Molly’s House.
The four-chucker Women’s Final of the Tabebuia Cup pitted Team NAPA (aka Cresta Soleada) against Team Southern Eagle (aka San Saba.) Teams were sponsored by NAPA Auto Supply of Stuart, LLC and Southern Eagle Distributing, Inc.

Team NAPA was crowned the winner by a score of 6.5 to 3. MVP sponsored by TD Bank was awarded to Gilliam Johnston of Team NAPA and Best Pony “Picasa” from Team Southern Eagle was owned and played by Annabelle Gundlach. Picasa looked stunning in the blanket awarded by sponsor Northern Trust.

A wonderful time was had by all. A special thank you to all who attended, our outstanding polo committee, our additional sponsors, Libation Sponsor- St. Louis Trust, Chucker Sponsors -Law Offices of John Mangan, PA, Bank of America Private Bank-St. Louis, Sandy Pines, Albert M. Covelli Foundation. Golf Cart Sponsors- Barbara Casey, Bob & Nancy Peavy along with Tailgate Sponsors- CAPTEC and Mari Huff, CPA, PA. In-Kind sponsors WQCS, Panera Bread, The Tackeria, TEXAS POLO. The Gafford, AERIAL Art and COAST 101.3 are also appreciated.

Molly’s House is a 501C3 supported by our community. For more information please visit
www.facebook.com/mollyshouse or contact Wendie Berardi at 772-223-6659.

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The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast From Home Goes Mobile

July Childrens Museum
Apr Childrens Museum 1

The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast has joined in the worldwide #MuseumFromHome movement. Although the Children’s Museum is temporarily closed, staff are working diligently sharing online content through digital platforms like, Instagram and Facebook. Museums throughout the world are sharing live stream videos, workshops and so much more; a great opportunity to bring Museums into family rooms across the globe.

The Children’s Museum of the Treasure Coast has taken this movement one step farther, bringing educational activity kits to children receiving free meals from House of Hope, Boys and Girls Clubs of Martin and St. Lucie County and Elev8Hope. “Many of the children receiving free meals may not have access to the live streaming due to lack of internet connections or computers, that is why we feel it is important to keep our mission moving and young minds inspired throughout both counties during this time’ says Tammy Calabria.

Executive Director. Luckily local businesses and donors also feel this movement is making an impact. Home Depot of Jensen Beach & St. Lucie West, Lowes of Stuart, PNC Bank, The Arts Council of Martin, The Elliott Museum, Colab Farms, Duffy’s and Baron Graphics have provided hands-on activities to fill over 1500 bags! One of the most popular being an Indoor Starter Gardening kit complete with fresh soil, seeds and planting instructions.

There is also an online tutorial for kids to access. Last week the Museum dropped off 1200 activity bags to all the partnering locations for distribution. “Our goal is to distribute 10,000 activity bags over the next month, or longer if school closures are extended. We are still looking to businesses to donate coloring books, crayons and hands-on projects in bulk so the distribution can continue throughout this down time” says Katie Makemson, Director of Education. The Children’s Museum is thankful to those donors who have stepped up to join this mission, but there are thousands of kids desperate for some creative thinking challenges like these.

If you or your business would like to join #MuseumFromHome, feel free to contact Tammy or Katie at The Children’s Museum’s Facebook page or call 772-225-7575 ext. 203. The core of the Children’s Museums mission is to provide hands-on educational experiences that will ignite the imagination, developing problem solving techniques and fine motor skills through play. To donate visit the Museums website www.childrensmuseumtc.org.

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AUDI STUART AIR SHOW RAISES OVER $66,000 ALLOWING THE NOVEMBER 2020 SHOW TO GO ON!

Mar StuartAir Show

Stuart - The Audi Stuart Air Show is thrilled to announce that on March 6th, at our “Salute to Stuart” fundraiser, we raised over $66,000 in support of our non-profit organization. We would like to extend a special thank you to the over 200 people who attended the event, our generous sponsors, and our incredible volunteers, for making this evening one to remember.
“CenterState Bank is honored to have been able to present this fundraising event in support of the Audi Stuart Air Show,” says Amy Bottegal, Stuart Air Show Board President and CenterState Bank Representative. “This event allowed us to pay homage to the wonderful community that the Stuart Air Show has called home for 30 years. Salute to Stuart brought our community together to rally support for our air show.”
The funds raised last Friday, will not only allow the Audi Stuart Air Show to replenish our financial reserves, which were nearly depleted following the tragic events causing our 2019 show to be cancelled, but also allow our 2020 show to be top-notch.
“It means so much to be a part of a community where we are so warmly supported by our residents,” says Skylar Gorman, Executive Director of the Audi Stuart Air Show. “The Audi Stuart Air Show has been a staple of Martin County for as long as I can remember and thanks to the success of Salute to Stuart, I have no doubt that the show will be around for many years to come.”
SkyBlue Jet Aviation provided their hangar in Witham Field for the event. Cheree Ramirez, SkyBlue Jet Aviation's Marketing Manager and longtime Audi Stuart Air Show volunteer, says, “I am proud to work with a company that believes in such an impactful event that sparks the love of aviation in so many of our young attendees.”
We would like to extend a special thank you to the following organizations for their generous support of the “Salute to Stuart” event: CenterState Bank, SkyBlue Jet Aviation, ADT Commercial, Treasure Coast Urgent Care, FPL Connect, Sailfish Marina of Stuart, Reel Graphics and Embroidery, Aerodyne Corporation, Martin County Board of County Commissioners, Audi Stuart, Eventmakers, and JJ Taylor Distributing.
Since last November, the international air show community has rallied around the Audi Stuart Air Show, calling the event “second-to-none.” And this year will be no exception. On November 6th through 8th, we will make our return to Witham Field to put on this community tradition for the 31st year. The three-day event will feature thrilling performances by nationally recognized military and civilian performers as well as captivating static displays. Festivities will kick off on Friday, November 6th, with the highly anticipated twilight air show featuring spectacular aerobatic performances at sunset, fireworks display, and our popular Dirty Flight Suit Party. On Saturday November 7th and Sunday November 8th, our gates will be open from 9am – 5pm, with as much to see on the ground as in the sky!
Tickets are available now at a pre-sale price of just $15. Pre-sale tickets will help continue to support our non-profit organization and our planning efforts for November. Purchase tickets online at www.stuartairshow.com/tickets or by calling 877-577-9463. Special pricing is offered to Veterans / Military and their spouses as well as for youth. Children under age 5 are admitted free.
For 2019 ticket holders who exchanged their tickets through our voucher program November 22, 2019 – December 22, 2019, click “buy tickets” on our website, or visit: https://tickets.completeticketsolutions.com/SAS/Online/default.asp. Once there, log into your account at the top right corner of the web page, where you should see your order for 2020 tickets. If you have any questions about 2019 tickets, please email info@stuartairshow.com.

WHAT: Audi Stuart Air Show
WHERE: 1895 Flying Fortress Lane, Stuart, Florida, Witham Field
WHEN: Friday, November 6, through Sunday, November 8, 2020
TICKETS: $15 - Purchase tickets online at www.stuartairshow.com/tickets or by calling 877-577-9463