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Small Business Owner, Legislators Demand Trump and DeSantis Provide More than ‘Lip Service’ to Small Businesses during the Coronavirus Crisis

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Today, State Sen. and Democratic Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, small business owner Michael Dolatowski, State Rep. Margaret Good, and State Rep. Anna Eskamani joined a virtual press conference to urge President Trump and Governor DeSantis to help small businesses, not just the big corporations advising them, get through this crisis. They also spoke to the critical need for Trump and DeSantis to implement widespread testing so the economy can reopen sooner and without the threat of COVID-19 resurgence.

They highlighted the need to ensure big businesses do not siphon off state and federal resources meant to keep small businesses afloat. The Florida Bridge Loan Program ran out of funding after they approved just 1,000 out of 38,000 claims. The federal Paycheck Protection Program approved tens of millions in loans to major corporations before also draining its funds. The participants not only discussed the need for more funding for these programs, but also the need for more protections and transparency to help small businesses.

Small businesses provided nearly 44 percent of the state’s GDP in 2019 and employ 43 percent of the state’s workforce in the private sector. Yet, when Governor DeSantis announced the members of his task force to reopen Florida yesterday afternoon, he did not include representation for small businesses. President Trump similarly named big business executives and loyalists to his task force to reopen America.

For a recording of the virtual press conference, click here. Note: download the video to watch the entire event.

Highlights from the call:

Florida Senate Democratic Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, SD-6, Jacksonville

“There are a number of areas of expertise that are missing from [DeSantis’] task force. If we don’t hear from small businesses on what they need to be able to participate in a reopening, then the task force is not complete.”

[...] “Yes, we can increase the amount [of money in the Bridge Loans program], but if we don’t put transparency, guidelines and set-asides in place for certain businesses that are well under 500 [employees] that are located in our communities, we’ll get the same old, same old. We have to be vigilant in how the money is spent.”

Michael Dolatowski, small business owner in Miami, founding partner of Deft Union

“I think that uncertainty, not only about how to open the economy, but safely return to socialization in a safe way where people feel comfortable is going to inhibit the economy from moving forward. That payroll protection is going to be spent and we’re going to be in the same situation we were in before.

“I just feel like steps 1, 2, and 3 have failed and I don’t have much confidence that steps 4, 5, 6, and 7 are going to follow up in an effective way.”

State Rep. Margaret Good, HD-72, Sarasota

“The actual small businesses in my communities are not getting this money, it’s the businesses that have relationships with big banks...There’s so much that we need to do to ensure that our small businesses are protected to ensure that we have local economies that support our Florida economy… we need to increase the PPP funding, increase the Small Business Emergency Loan Funding and be really disciplined about how we dole that out.”

[...] “Everybody wants to get back to normal life as quickly as possible... But almost every single small business that I talk to, every single employee that I talk to is afraid to open without widespread testing, without knowing from public health professions that we have a plan and that we have this under control. My concern about the task force is that there’s a real lack of epidemiologist, public health professionals.. That’s not just important for public health, but important for our economy. If we open too soon and then we see a spike in cases, it could really negatively affect our economy in a much longer term.”

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, HD-47, Orlando

“...Both our Governor and the president of the United States have a preference for big business over small companies. Just last week, Florida made the decision to allow $543 million in a corporate tax refund be released to the state’s largest corporations... meanwhile our small businesses and our individual Floridians get no relief. Our unemployment system is still a mess and these big corporations are the ones that actually helped craft the current unemployment insurance program we’re all dealing with now.

[...] “We continue to see this type of disregard of small businesses --a whole lot of lip service-- but we want to see some real action and some real policy.”