PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — The growing fear of the red tide bloom just off Florida's southwestern coast has been keeping visitors away from some Pinellas County beaches.
But for businesses affected by the resulting downturn in tourism help is on the way.
- Dept. of Environmental Protection will provide $3M in grants
- Businesses in Pinellas affected more by fears than by actual red tide so far
- Business owners hope red tide bloom doesn't get worse
Gov. Rick Scott has announced the Florida Department of Environmental Protection will provide an additional $3 million in grant money to help communities impacted by red tide.
The increase brings the total amount of grant funding to help affected areas to $9 million, according to the governor's office.
"We are using every resource available to support our communities impacted by red tide," Scott said in a statement. "This $9 million in grant funding that DEP is providing to Southwest Florida counties will help get businesses and families back to work as they continue to recover from this year’s red tide.”
Of the allocated funding, $1 million has already gone to Sarasota County and another $1 million to Lee County.
Concerns having serious impact
Typically on a sunny Friday afternoon leading into a holiday weekend, Captain Dylan Hubbard with Hubbard’s Marina said his charter boats would be packed with people.
He worries this Labor Day, however, will be a different story.
“We have seen really drastic numbers of cancellations and much lower visitor volume than normal,” Hubbard said.
Though levels of red tide have been detected in Pinellas County waters, Hubbard said they haven’t had any problems.
“We haven’t had any breathing irritation on our beaches this year, so hopefully that continues,” Hubbard said.
Hubbard said it’s the concern that’s doing the most damage.
“This is a killer for some small businesses, especially for small mom-and-pop and charter businesses just getting started," Hubbard explained. "I mean, this is a big holiday weekend a lot of us count on."
This Labor Day weekend, Hubbard hopes people from near and far will check out everything Pinellas County beaches have to offer. He's also keeping his fingers crossed that the red tide doesn’t get any worse.
“The water is beautiful along Madeira Beach, St. Pete Beach, Treasure Island and our fishing on shore and off shore," Hubbard said. "It’s a great time to come down and enjoy the beautiful weather, beautiful beaches, and great fishing."