homepage logo

Letter from the Chamber president: Socially distant, always present

By Staff | Mar 24, 2020

John Gardner

Unprecedented times.

That’s one of many phrases we are hearing on a routine basis lately, and we will persevere. I encourage everyone to take precautions, wash your hands, avoid contact with others as much as possible and prepare for at least 3 or 4 weeks of a different lifestyle until this virus runs its course.

While I do have a previous past life in Emergency Medicine, I’m not an infectious disease specialist but neither are the folks that most people are getting information from. You should verify anything you see on social media or whatever “news” source or media outlet that you are glued to. I have included the links to the Florida Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control below.

Don’t panic, the numbers are getting better as we actually test more people instead of just the most ill and highest suspect. In case you weren’t aware this year’s Type A Flu strain is the H1N1 swine flu virus that hit in 2009 and the numbers look like it was far more severe than COVID-19 is playing out to be. I am not saying this is a hoax and I am not saying to ignore the warnings or not take precautions. This is a real and serious virus.

We are finally testing lots of people so the number of cases are going up at a rapid rate, the good news is that the percentage of tests that are positive is actually rather low, meaning most people are suffering from some type of cold or flu but not COVID-19. The experts tell us that as we test more people the results will show that the positive rate and fatality rate will start to dive much lower because only the very sick was tested at first. More people are positive but just not as sick or fewer symptoms.

The vast majority of positive cases are being sent home to wait out the illness and let it run its course; they simply must reserve beds for those that need additional medical support. You do not need to go to the hospital just because you have a sore throat but do not hesitate to go if you have difficulty breathing. Having a positive test result doesn’t automatically mean admission to the hospital, it means self-isolation. Not my words, this is directly from the CDC.

There are several sources for help that we want to make you aware of. In these trying times and the uncertainty that many businesses will face, your Chamber is here to assist and bring you the info regarding the help and assistance that is out there.

* Info about COVID-19

Florida Health Department www.floridahealth.gov/

CDC Centers for Disease control www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Live global data www.ncov2019.live real time updates

* Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

Gov. Ron DeSantis activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program to support small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The bridge loan program, managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), will provide short-term, interest-free loans to small businesses that experienced economic injury from COVID-19. The application period opens on March 17, 2020 and runs through May 8, 2020. The current allocation is $50 million to be shared among the state. The program is first come, first served.

Small business owners with two to 100 employees located in Florida affected by COVID-19 can apply for short-term loans up to $50,000. These loans are designed to bridge the gap to either federal SBA loans or commercially available loans. DEO will work with every borrower to ensure that repayment of the loan isn’t an overwhelming burden. To be eligible, a business must have been established prior to March 9, 2020 and demonstrate economic impacts as a result of COVID-19.

(This program is zero interest for 12 months but has a hefty 12% RETROACTIVE interest rate if not paid back in full at the end of the 12 months) Caution is advised when applying for this loan, if you do not have the ability to pay it off, you can also apply for the SBA Economic injury disaster loan also. (second loan program listed below)

The bridge loan process may be started online.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans

If you have suffered substantial economic injury and are one of the following types of businesses located in a declared disaster area, you may be eligible for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL):

Small Business

Small agricultural cooperative

Most private nonprofit organizations

Loan Amounts and Use?Substantial economic injury means the business is unable to meet its obligations and to pay its ordinary and necessary operating expenses. EIDLs provide the necessary working capital to help small businesses survive until normal operations resume after a disaster. The SBA can provide up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred. Your loan amount will be based on your actual economic injury and your company’s financial needs, regardless of whether the business suffered any property damage.

Eligibility and Terms?The interest rate on EIDLs will not exceed 4 percent per year. The term of these loans will not exceed 30 years. The repayment term will be determined by your ability to repay the loan. EIDL assistance is available only to small businesses when SBA determines they are unable to obtain credit elsewhere. A business may qualify for both an EIDL and a physical disaster loan. The maximum combined loan amount is $2 million.

How to Apply?You can apply online for an SBA disaster assistance loan. You must submit the completed loan application and a signed and dated IRS Form 4506-T giving permission for the IRS to provide SBA your tax return information. For additional information, please contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center. Call 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

The SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan may be started online.

* CareerSource of SWFL

Companies with jobs available should contact CareerSource at 1-800-557-3242. CareerSource Southwest Florida centers will be closed to the public for the next two weeks, March 20, 2020 through April 3, 2020, in order to take precautions due to COVID-19 virus. Online resources are available. Local Employers currently hiring: Hot Job Opportunities careersourcesouthwestflorida.com/hot-jobs/

* United Way 211

211 is a United Way program that provides free information and referral to human/social service agencies within Lee, Hendry, Glades and Okeechobee Counties, 24 hour a day, 365 days a year. Clients can call and receive information and referrals appropriate to their needs. United Way 211 help peoples navigate their way through the maze of human and social services agencies by providing the most adequate resources for the client’s situation. English and Spanish languages are readily available. United Way 211 is for non-emergency assistance only; 211 may not be reached on some hotel, cell, or pay phones. In these cases, 211 can be reached in Lee County at (239) 433-3900 and Hendry/Glades (800) 887-9234.

United Way 211 is a partnership between United Way of Lee County, Lee County Department of Human Services, ACT, Child Care of Southwest Florida, Southwest Florida Community Foundation, and Publix Super Markets.

* Reemployment Assistance

If your employment has been negatively impacted as a result of the mitigation efforts in Florida to stop the spread of COVID-19, you may be eligible to receive Reemployment Assistance.

Individuals who may be eligible for Reemployment Assistance may include:

Those who are quarantined by a medical professional or a government agency,

Those who are laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period by their employer due to COVID-19 concerns, or

Those who are caring for an immediate family member who is diagnosed with COVID-19.

Reemployment claims are handled by the CONNECT system. You can file your claim by accessing CONNECT through www.FloridaJobs.org in the Reemployment Assistance Service Center in the right hand corner of the page. Reemployment Assistance COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions.

Re-employment assistance is available online.

Many of you (and us) are working remotely. The Chamber Welcome Center is currently closed for several reasons, primarily the safety of our volunteer staff that are all senior citizens.

The Shell Factory has also shut down operations temporarily because of the guidelines established by the State Health Department for gatherings over 10 people and restaurant operations no longer allowing onsite consumption.

Please follow us on Facebook as we are making posts and updates several times daily, we are asking for your information as business operations change so that our many followers will have updated info and be able to utilize your services and goods.

Your Chamber is here to help in this time of need. Please reach out if you have suggestions or needs.

Facebook www.facebook.com/NFMChamber.org/

email: info@nfmchamber.org

website: www.nfmchamber.org

Socially Distant,

John Gardner

North Fort Myers Chamber President