economy

Wilfredo Lee / AP

Florida business regulators shut down a web portal launched to make it easier for the public to file complaints about businesses that violate COVID-19 guidelines last month, just as cases statewide started to surge.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation created the online form in mid March, but removed it May 29.

The Shutdown Hit The Florida Keys Hard. What Will It Take To Get Back To Business?

Jun 1, 2020
Charles Trainor Jr. / Miami Herald

Tourism is the lifeblood of the Florida Keys. It pumps up jobs and tax dollars. Supports fishing, hotels, restaurants.

So with more than five million people who visit Monroe County in a normal year, the island chain typically has the lowest unemployment rate in the state. But with tourists banned from entering the Keys since late March because of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Monroe County’s unemployment rate shot up to the second highest in Florida, a whopping 17.5 percent.

When the federal small business rescue program was announced, Krista Kern-Desjarlais scrambled to research it, talking to her banker and digging online.

Kern-Desjarlais runs two restaurants in Maine — the Purple House in North Yarmouth and Bresca & the Honeybee, a summer-only food stand on Sabbathday Lake. She decided to hold off on that coronavirus rescue effort, called the Paycheck Protection Program or PPP.

Daniel Rivero / WLRN

On this Tuesday, May 26, episode of Sundial:

Felons Voting Rights

U.S. District Judge Robert Hinkle ruled on Sunday that the requirement by the state that all former felons must pay back all fines and fees before registering to vote was unconstitutional. As many as 800,000 felons across the state of Florida could be impacted by the ruling. The high profile court case has been followed across the country for the ramifications it could have on the November 2020 election — and beyond.

Preschool teacher Lainy Morse has been out of work for more than two months. But the Portland, Ore., child care center where she worked is considering a reopening. Morse says she is dreading the idea, as much as she loves the infants and toddlers for which she cared.

"They always have snotty faces. It's just one cold after another," she says. "It feels just like an epicenter for spreading disease. And it feels really scary to go back to that."

Stock traders wore masks at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday as the trading floor reopened for the first time since March. The exchange has been restricted to electronic trading for two months out of concern over the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Sheng Guo was among the first people in South Florida to experience the impact of COVID-19. He grew up near Wuhan, China, where the virus started. He lives in Weston now, but his parents and grandmother still live close to Wuhan. Guo is an economics instructor at FIU.

AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

The new normal is here. Florida began a full phase one reopening with restaurant dining rooms, shopping malls and hotels reopening with limitations on Monday.

 

It’s a calculated effort balancing the need to protect public health and the demand for economic activity. How long and lasting will this new normal be? It may be a balance between infection rates and unemployment rates -- between epidemiology and economics.

As businesses reopen, many Americans being called back to work say they don't feel safe — especially those who work in restaurants, hair salons or other high-contact jobs.

"With people eating food, not having masks on, with servers having to touch their plates and their silverware, there's just absolutely no way to keep the servers safe," says Lindsey, a waitress in Iowa.

She has been out of work for two months. But this week, the pub-style restaurant she works at is reopening.

After two weeks of working from her Brooklyn apartment, a 25-year-old e-commerce worker received a staffwide email from her company: Employees were to install software called Hubstaff immediately on their personal computers so it could track their mouse movements and keyboard strokes, and record the webpages they visited.

They also had to download an app called TSheets to their phones to keep tabs on their whereabouts during work hours.

The first time Rosemary Ugboajah applied for a small-business relief loan, it didn't go well. She needed the money for her small Minneapolis-based company, which has created ad campaigns for brands like the NCAA Final Four.

So she went to her credit union.

"They were hard to reach, but eventually I got through to someone and they emailed me back saying they can't process the loan because they don't process SBA loans," she said. "I wasn't aware of that."

The worst of the nation's historic job losses are yet to come, according to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who told Fox News Sunday that "the reported numbers are probably going to get worse before they get better."

Updated at 11:43 a.m. ET

The Labor Department delivered a historically bad employment report Friday, showing 20.5 million jobs lost last month as the nation locked down against the coronavirus. The jobless rate soared to 14.7% — the highest level since the Great Depression.

The highest monthly job loss before this was 2 million in 1945, as the nation began to demobilize after World War II. The worst monthly job loss during the Great Recession was 800,000 in March 2009.

Updated at 9:00 a.m. ET

Michelle Sweeney could barely sleep. The nurse in Plymouth, Mass., had just learned she would be furloughed. She only had four hours the next day to call all of her patients.

"I was in a panic state. I was sick over it," Sweeney said. "Our patients are the frailest, sickest group."

Sweeney works for Atrius Health as a case manager for patients with chronic health conditions and those who have been discharged from the hospital or emergency room.

As more states begin to ease coronavirus restrictions, restaurants are working through exactly how they will get back to business.

When Florida eased restaurant restrictions this week, the notorious Flora-Bama roadhouse reopened its doors, the sounds of live music drifting with the sea breeze.

This sprawling 11-acre complex on the Gulf of Mexico at the Florida-Alabama state line is known for its local musicians, Gulf oysters and cold beer.

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