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Please help our minority businesses

When the COVID-19 outbreak emerged, our communities immediately suffered devastating effects. In the aftermath, mandated shutdowns left both a physical and economic impact that will take considerable time to recover. Every level of government reacted swiftly to issue those necessary “stay home” orders, the results of which halted our economy. It is praiseworthy to recognize that efforts to mitigate the spread of infection have been successful, as it appears the virus is noticeably slowing down.

"We need to expedite unemployment claims for the over 1.5 million Floridians who have filed and billions of dollars must be set aside for community’s businesses."

Conversely, this pandemic has shined a light on the previously existing healthcare disparities within the Black and brown community, and the unfortunate results are that Blacks have suffered a disproportionately higher, coronavirus infection rate.

Our local economy also continues to suffer while the $367 billion “Paycheck Protection Program” (or PPP), introduced by Sen. Marco Rubio to provide zero-interest loans to small businesses, ran out of money in one week. Many qualifying small businesses in our community did not get a dime despite applying ahead of time.

It is clear we need a bottom up response ASAP, with our state and federal government refilling the well and implementing a few things. These are my recommendations:

First, local government needs to step up where it can. Please continue supporting food distribution efforts, defer or forgive bills and help residents afford to live in their homes. I appreciate the forward-thinking leadership of Rep. Barbara Watson for organizing the first drive-thru, give-a-way at the park and ride last month. I was grateful to have been able to volunteer.

Secondly, we need to expedite unemployment claims for the over 1.5 million Floridians who have filed and billions of dollars must be set aside for community’s businesses. The outbreak of a virus should not have been the impetus to finally force state government to launch a modern, working unemployment claims website.

If you do not have access to a working computer to file your unemployment, call their claim hotline 1-800-204-2418 or their general line 850-245-7105 between 8 am - 5 pm for live customer service or you can use their automated service after hours. It is important to recognize the efforts that Sen. Jason Pizzo and his staff have done to provide unemployment claim forms to people, even dropping it off at their doors.

Lastly, I encourage our county and local government to create programs that provide our business community a bridge to lenders that provide PPP loans and also provide collateral in the form of local government-sponsored, zero interest loans and grants to help our business community qualify for the much-needed support.

A special,” thank-you” is extended toward congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson and other local government officials who are working tirelessly to ensure businesses are receiving the necessary funds to continue to pay their workers and feed their families.

I’d like to thank Feeding South Florida, Farm Share, and Joshua’s Heart for consistently being there for our community. Someone reading my email communications and gave a $5000 donation to support their fellow neighbors. If you have the ability to donate time or money to any of the previously mentioned organizations, please do. Anything will help during this time.

For all of our first responders, hospital workers, grocery clerks and stockers, sanitation workers, postal workers, delivery drivers, teachers, bus drivers and all who are on the front lines keeping our economy going, thank you. Without asking, they have become the true heroes. When the pandemic ends, the best honor they can be given are substantial increases to their current, living wage.

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