How Florida’s Local Communities Are Helping Save Lives, Businesses and Even Summer Jobs
Washington negotiations for a new Coronavirus Relief Package have stalled, but local communities across Florida are working behind the scenes to keep residents and businesses safe and provide financial relief of their own. This edition of Keep It Local Florida spotlights how our local communities are working to clarify and optimize safety rules, help small businesses make ends meet and even save youth summer jobs.
How Cities and Counties are Helping Small Businesses Stay Afloat
“Last year was one of our best years, this year is going to be one of our worst years,” Chef Vincent Gagliano, owner of Winter Park French restaurant Chez Vincent, said to the Orlando Sentinel. Florida’s small businesses are suffering right now and there’s only so much state and federal money to go around. However, Florida’s local communities are working hard to help their local businesses make ends meet. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Winter Park commissioners are using city money to help local businesses stay afloat—and they’re not the only ones. Brevard County Commissioners approved a small business grant program with a $10 million budget. Lake County will offer small business grants soon. The City of West Palm Beach has been providing resources for small business owners since March. So has Tallahassee, Jacksonville and Pensacola. Local communities throughout Florida are stepping in to fill the gap.
Temperature Scanners for County Public Buildings
Safety rules have made longer lines and pedestrian bottlenecks a new fact of life. However, automatic temperature scanners could improve pedestrian traffic flow and Indian River County will be among the first to try them out. Colleen Wixon of TC Palm reports: “Twenty temperature scanners were ordered … for various public buildings, including recreation facilities, libraries and hurricane shelters,” as well as for the “entrances of the two main county administration complex buildings …” The equipment “will take each person’s temperature as they enter a building …”
Orange County Deploys “Strike Teams” to Help Businesses Stay Compliant
Let’s face it, we’re all still learning together. As the medical community continues to learn more about how COVID-19 works, federal, state and local governments have continued to refine their safety rules, guidelines and best practices. It can be difficult to keep track, which is why Orange County is deploying “strike teams” to “help businesses stay safe during the pandemic” by clarifying rules and providing PPE and signage. Ryan Lynch of Orlando Business Journal reports: “The teams—which consist of Florida Department of Health and county code enforcement officials—have visited 57 businesses since July 22. Of those, about 88% were in compliance with safety rules related to COVID-19, including masks and social distancing.”
Local Communities Wired for COVID-19
Staying optimistic isn’t always easy amidst a global pandemic. However, when it comes to overcoming the limitations this crisis poses, it’s comforting to think about the ways in which our modern world was already well-equipped at the start. GovTech.com reported that “When Ocala, Fla., turned its electric utility’s fiber-optic network into a municipal broadband service, the city had no idea how vital high-speed Internet connections would become during a pandemic. As COVID-19 closed businesses, shuttered schools and overwhelmed hospitals, Ocala Fiber Network (OFN) delivered more than enough bandwidth to support telemedicine, distance learning and remote work, without a hitch.” How did OFN come to be? “It was a slow, methodical journey that began 25 years ago.”
“Testing Sites Near Me?” – Lake County Launches Site Locator Tool
In the age of smartphones, finding the newest restaurant, nearest shopping center or hippest coffee shop is as easy as reaching in your pocket and consulting Google. Lake County recently launched a new, interactive online tool to make finding the nearest COVID-19 testing center just as easy. From Adrienne Cutway of ClickOrlando.com: “Lake County has launched a new online tool to help residents find the most convenient testing site for them.” The tool shows a map of the area and uses icons to represent the nearest testing sites. “Clicking each icon will reveal further information about each location, including the address, cost for the test, hours of operation and contact information.”
Youth Summer Jobs Go Virtual
As a teen in need of a summer job, you may have bussed tables, sold movie tickets or operated the Ferris Wheel at the local amusement park. Those were simpler times, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t important jobs out there for America’s youth post-COVID. Bloomberg Cities describes how COVID-19 has changed Miami’s Summer Jobs Connect Program: “Normally, [Miami] places about 200 youth in positions out in the community, working with local nonprofits, businesses and city agencies. This year, thanks to COVID-19, the work is all being done remotely.” And according to Bloomberg, it’s important work: “The teenagers employed … have a big job to do: They’re interviewing thousands of residents and business owners by phone about all the ways COVID-19 has impacted them.”