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The City of Panama City applies for nearly $23 million in grant funding

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — The City of Panama City is hoping to secure almost half of the $60 million set aside by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for the Community Development Block Grant Disaster recovery funding.

There are 50 businesses included in the city’s application along with projects for the Martin Luther King Jr. recreation center, the St. Andrews School, and the second section of the Harrison Avenue streetscape.

This particular allocation of grant funding is to support the revitalization of low to moderate income areas that were impacted by Hurricane Michael.

Officials from the DEO came to Panama City to see some of the proposed projects included in the city’s nearly $23 million application.

“This was a key step in the approval process for our hometown revitalization grant applications,” said Panama City Assistant City Manager, Jared Jones.

Jones said DEO officials saw the need for the funding after seeing the damage still left behind by Hurricane Michael more than two and half years later.

“From roofs to façade issues to potential business expansion, parking lot improvements you name it there was a very demonstrated need throughout all of the areas,” Jones said.

One of the businesses included in the application, Gulf Coast Aquarium, is hoping for a new roof.

“Slowly the roof has been deteriorating and we were kind of forced to move into another location which is across the street,” Gulf Coast Aquarium Owner, Jessica Kent, said.

Kent said paying both rent and a mortgage is taking a toll on their business.

“We work 80 plus hours a week and because we can’t have the funds for more payroll even though the business is dictating it, we can’t do it because of all of the extra expenses that we are incurring because we are trying to maintain to be downtown because that’s where our home is,” Kent said. “That’s where we want to be.”

Kent said during the pandemic their business has grown and the smaller space makes it difficult to keep up with the demand.

“As busy as we are here in this location, we’re expecting a lot more growth with just our business once we get back over there,” Kent said. “We’re really looking forward to it and and I really hope that maybe Santa this year will bring us a new roof.”

According to officials, job creation is one of the deciding factors when it comes to determining who gets funding. Kent said they will probably double the employees they have now if they’re able to get their roof fixed and get back in their old building.

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