A Message from the Florida Chamber: COVID-19 Update

Each day I hear from job creators that are eager to hang an “open for business” sign in their windows, and for certain, restarting Florida’s economy is certainly weighing heavy on many as we all work to strike the right balance between staying safe, while also keeping workers paid, and businesses from going under.

While parts of the U.S. have reached their COVID-19 peak, according to the model most have been using, Florida’s peak was recently moved up to April 21, then back to April 27th and has just been moved back to May 6. The timing and process of reopening Florida will have more to do with the virus being contained and the spread slowing to near zero than any of us wish was the case. As we continue practicing social distancing and working remotely, the Florida Chamber is already charting a path for restarting Florida’s economy. In fact, each week, over 150 local chambers of commerce meet with me and our Chief Economist (virtually, obviously) to work on providing relief to job creators, and then ultimately reopening Florida by restarting our economy. 

 The safety of Floridians continues to be our top priority, and certainly, we must be smart in the way Florida reopens and hangs the welcome sign. We do not want to be like Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore and others who reopened their economies by relaxing their approach, only to find a resurgence of cases, a secondary spread and, unfortunately, a redeployment of restrictions on commerce, gatherings, travel and more. I’m convinced Governor DeSantis and his team understand that the reopening of the economy needs to be as surgical as the move to our current situation.

Friends, we simply have to get this right. Balancing the right health and safety outcomes with the right “re-start” is vital, and we’re uniting business around the right measures. If your business has an idea or advice regarding the restart, my team and I want to hear from you at [email protected]

Our research, gathered from some of the brightest minds in Florida and across the country, shows that returning to work will likely be measured, vary by regions, industry sectors, the type and size of businesses, all combined with the health and safety of workers. We can all easily come up with wish lists, legislative agendas and our own timelines, but the truth is we have to get this right. There are well known economic models that show, the wrong re-start approach, combined with too much relaxing of health protocols, could prolong our economic recovery into 2023 – yes, 2023.  

Restarting Florida’s economy won’t be as simple as flipping on a light switch. It requires methodical planning for potentially new processes, mandates or limitations for which there simply isn’t an example to draw upon. And we must not allow a lack of resources, regulations that are not fit-for-purpose, and/or the fear of litigation to sideline efforts to safely and sustainably return to work and restart our economy.

RELIEF: Before restarting, it’s important to know the facts about COVID-19’s impact on our state. Florida now has 21,019 positive COVID-19 cases, that’s an increase of 1,124 since yesterday. We’ve had 499 deaths, which includes 38 more yesterday. Florida has now tested 201,005, and we tested another 15,485 Floridians yesterday (this is the greatest number of tests in a single day – way to go!). Nearly 60 percent of all the positive cases are in just three of our 67 counties – Dade, Broward and Palm Beach. To see how many cases are in your county, click on our daily map here.

From day one, we’ve been connected with Governor Ron DeSantis, Surgeon General Scott Rivkees, AHCA Secretary Mary Mayhew, Florida Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, and Small Business Administration leaders. And we’re providing daily, around the clock relief support through the:

RESTART: We know there are measures Florida will need to take to protect public health while reopening vital economic sectors. Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish is playing a leading role in this effort, and we’re continuing to partner with leading local chambers – who will lead recovery efforts in communities across Florida when it’s safe to do so, as well as our members and trustees, who will be on the front lines of this restart.

  • Weekly Local Chamber Webinars
    • Each Tuesday at 10 a.m. EST – Designed specifically for the Florida Chamber’s Federation of local chambers of commerce and our partners at the Florida Association of Chamber Professionals. If you are a local chamber and have not registered for our weekly meeting, please email Grant Holcomb at [email protected].
  • Statewide Chamber Member & Foundation Trustee Webinar:
    • Florida’s Economy: A Rebound or Rut following COVID-19? Scheduled for this Friday, April 17 at 11 a.m. I will provide perspective on Florida’s situation and our Foundation’s Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish will provide real-time data on how COVID-19 has impacted Florida and will discuss some of the key trends and variables that will determine how our economy might fare from this point forward. Request an invitation for this member/trustee only event.

We don’t purport to have all the answers, and that’s why, along with our broad team of some of the brightest minds from Florida and across the globe, input from local chambers of commerce and chamber members, dozens of leading trade associations and others, we’re working around the clock to put Florida on the right path to restart Florida’s economy.

By uniting Florida’s business community for good, we can AND WILL secure Florida’s future by successfully restarting Florida’s economy.

 Will you join us as we restart Florida’s economy, and put our state on the path to recovery as we reimagine what Florida will once again be? I personally want to hear from you. Email me at [email protected]

My Best,

Mark Wilson
President and CEO

Economic Relief Resources For Florida Businesses

CARES Act Provider Relief Fund

One component of the federal CARES Act was a Provider Relief Fund that provides $100 billion in relief funds to hospitals and other healthcare providers on the front lines of the coronavirus response. On Friday, April 10, healthcare providers began receiving these relief payments from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS). This funding will be used to support healthcare-related expenses or lost revenue attributable to COVID-19 and to ensure uninsured Americans can get testing and treatment for COVID-19. Further guidance from HHS may be found here.

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)

The EIDL program, part of the Small Business Administration’s emergency loan assistance measures included in the federal CARES Act, was supposed to offer COVID-19 impacted businesses up $2 million in loans to cover non-payroll related expenses. However, reports from Washington are now suggesting the $10 billion program is so oversubscribed that loans are being capped at approximately $15,000. Additionally, the $10,000 non-repayable grant supposed to be made available through the $2 trillion relief package has also been overwhelmed with nearly three times the expected applicants within days of the window for these emergency funds opening last Friday. This non-repayable grant was intended to be disbursed to small businesses within three days of application.

Paycheck Protection Program

The PPP, a nearly $350 billion small business loan assistance program designed to help businesses retain employees and meet financial commitments, has also drawn massive interest from qualified small businesses. This interest will only further surge with the program being opened to independent contractors, many gig economy workers and the self-employed yesterday. While we have seen massive commitments from lenders, initial disbursements have been slow due to challenges with the application inputting process and guidance from Treasury arriving late last week. Reports from Washington however are that those dollars are starting to flow from the SBA.

U.S. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell attempted last week to pass an emergency injection of an additional $250 billion into the programs only for those efforts to fail along party lines. In addition to advocating for an immediate injection of capital for small businesses in Florida to keep doors open and employees receiving paychecks, the Florida Chamber is also leading an effort to add c(6) non-profits, such as local chambers of commerce, to those businesses able to qualify for this emergency loan program. 

Main Street Lending Program

Finally, the Federal Reserve’s Main Street Lending Program we wrote about yesterday opened to facilitate loans to larger businesses (companies with between 500 and 10,000 employees). The minimum loan amount is $1 million and businesses may use this program in addition to PPP.

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