‘We Understand You Are Struggling’

Mar 26, 2020

Scott Luth, chief executive officer with the FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance.
Credit Tom Ninestine / WUWF

The federal emergency funding being considered in Congress on Thursday could give help to workers and business owners in Northwest Florida struggling through  COVID-19.

Scott Luth, chief executive officer with the FloridaWest Economic Development Alliance, gave some sober economic news: More than 74,000 people applied for unemployment this week as a result of this month’s pandemic across Florida. Last week, that number was 6,400. Luth was one of five speakers at a Thursday morning news conference on the business side of the coronavirus.

Luth said the $2 trillion emergency funding could bring as much as $450 billion to the Sunshine State.

For those who have been laid off, furloughed or lost their jobs, he said CareerSource Escarosa has thousands of jobs available at careersourceescarosa.com.   

Kelly Massey, regional director of the Pensacola Small Business Development Center, said business owners may be eligible for “bridge loans” to get through the crisis. Applications can be submitted at floridadisasterloan.org. Small businesses are eligible for up to $50,000.  Loans of up to $100,000 may be made in special cases, he explained.

Todd Thomson, chief executive officer with the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce, which hosted the news conference outside the T.T. Wentworth Jr. Museum in Downtown Pensacola, said the people of Northwest Florida are resilient.

“We will get through this together,” he said, adding the chamber’s website has COVID-19 information to assist members. “We’ll get you plugged into the resources.”

He suggested the public visit Facebook pages to find takeout and delivery options for restaurants trying to survive amid the pandemic. The page features restaurant schedules and menus. There also is a page with offers for Pensacola retailers and small businesses.

Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson IV said the city is working to help small businesses, their employees and other residents to get through the growing crisis. 

“We understand you are struggling,” Robinson said during the 30-minute news conference. About a dozen radio, TV and newspaper reporters attended.

Robinson said 1,300 COVID-19 tests have been conducted locally and seven to eight percent test positive. The good news is 92 or 93% are testing negative, the mayor said. 

In other business-related news, chambers of commerce in the two-county area in conjunction with state Sen. Doug Broxson, Mayor Robinson, Santa Rosa County Commission Board Chairman Don Salter, and Escambia County Commission Board Chairman Steven Barry are hosting a medical supply drive on Friday, April 3 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.  They are asking individuals and businesses, such as construction companies, contractors, nail salons, nonessential medical offices, veterinarians, and others to donate any supplies not currently being used to help combat Covid-19. 

Here are the drop-off locations:

PenAir Federal Credit Union, 1495 E. Nine Mile Road, Pensacola, FL 32514; the Blue Wahoos Stadium, 351 W. Cedar St, Pensacola, FL 32502; Grover Ts, 5887 U.S. 90, Milton, FL; and the Navarre Chamber of Commerce. 1804 Prado St.