As Florida passes the peak of the COVID-19 epidemic and we look forward to reopening our state economy, small businesses like mine deserve a place at the recovery table. ‘State.
Last week the governor Ron DeSantis the Florida Reopening Task Force leadership team announced – much to my dismay, none of those advertised were from small businesses. Although the task forces subsequently appointed include a limited number of small business owners, we have no representation on the executive committee and must rely on our task force chairs to adequately convey our concerns to the governor and the rest of the world. Executive Committee.
As the owner of a winery, brewery, and restaurant in South Florida that employs over 40 people, I think this is a mistake; small businesses will absolutely have to play a big role in the recovery and reopening of our state. There are over 2.5 million small businesses in Florida, employing approximately 42% of the state’s private workforce. Any real discussion to ensure that our state is on the path to prosperity should start with us, not just with the biggest corporations and businesses.
Over the past 20 years, what started out as a personal dream on 30 acres of land in the Redlands has evolved into a destination winery and brewery, bringing happiness and joy to the hundreds of thousands of visitors we see. every year in our South Dade community. . Now, with the COVID-19 pandemic, like almost all businesses in our industry, our restaurant and cellar doors are closed, weddings and events have been postponed or canceled, and almost all of our staff are on leave. .
My experience is not unique, but shared by many across Florida. Ultimately, financial aid and loans for small businesses are not about the livelihoods of homeowners; they concern the employees and the economy who are supported and threatened by this unforeseen crisis.
While Governor DeSantis has repeatedly stated that he wants small businesses to lead our recovery, his actions have not followed suit. In addition to limited representation on its task force, our state’s small business bridge loan program has dried up; reports indicated that of the 37,000 small businesses that applied for bridging loans, only 1,000 benefited. The Governor has taken no action to restore this program.
Time will tell if the state is ultimately responsive to the needs of small businesses. I urge Governor DeSantis to immediately expand the state’s small business bridge loan program and do so in a way that prioritizes genuine small businesses. These are business loans that will be repaid, and any expansion will mean more businesses can get back to work and help our economy recover.
In the meantime, we are adjusting to the situation – both by wholesaling our products and hosting virtual wine tastings and eagerly waiting for this terrible pandemic to overtake us and resume our business as usual.
However, what the status quo looks like when we emerge from the other side of this crisis will depend on the response of our local and state leaders, and the efforts they make to ensure that small businesses are supported.
I was happy to receive an invitation from my local county mayor Carlos gimenez, to be a voice at the table in our local recovery effort; it recognizes the role small businesses like mine have in dealing with this crisis and helping our community recover and reopen. I hope the governor recognizes our importance as well.
Peter Schnebly is the founder and owner of Schnebly Redland’s Winery & Brewery.
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