Thousands of small businesses have closed throughout the state. Now the governor wants to reopen amid a second wave of cases in the country.
Over the weekend, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the go-ahead and approved all businesses to reopen to full capacity despite an increase in cases of COVID-19 in the US.
“We’re not closing anything going forward,” DeSantis said, according to the Associated Press. He added, “As an act of executive grace, all fines and penalties that have been applied against individuals are suspended.”
Latino small business owners, and local state leaders, say the damage against the Latino community in Florida is done. They say Gov. Ron DeSantis and President Donald Trump have not addressed how to help the Latino community during the pandemic now or even before COVID-19 struck Americans.
“President Trump’s body count didn’t start with COVID-19. It started for the Latino community, particularly Puerto Ricans, with Hurricane Maria. The body count from that event was significantly understated in the same way that COVID-19 was underplayed at the outset,” William Rosario, a Florida small business owner said during a virtual roundtable with local leaders and Latino business owners in the Orlando and Tampa area.
The virtual roundtable, hosted by Viviana Janer, chairwoman of the Osceola Board of County Commissioners, was in support of the Joe Biden presidential campaign.
Rosario added that Trump has continuously lied about the severity of COVID-19, just as he lied about Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria.
“These displaced US citizens who all came to Central Florida to seek a better life were instead met with a second tragedy called COVID-19,” Rosario said. “Our communities have long been suffering because of Donald Trump.”
Since the start of the pandemic, thousands of businesses have closed throughout Florida. Almost 3,000 businesses closed in South Florida. More than 1,000 closed in the Orlando area and another thousand in Tampa Bay. As of Sept. 28, Florida reports 701,294 cases of coronavirus and 14,036 deaths.
Carlos Carbonell, another business owner in Florida, said DeSantis and Trump did not react fast enough to the pandemic, and only made matters worse by not shutting down quicker and not having a unified mandate on masks.
“There was no swift action,” Carbonell said. “He didn’t want to listen and simply wanted to dismiss what everyone was saying. So when you fast forward to now, and you see him attend events wearing a mask, and you look back at how much he resisted… it doesn’t matter that he’s wearing a mask now, the damage is done.”
Tampa Attorney Salma Benkabbou said one of the biggest reasons so many small businesses were affected during the pandemic is a lack of leadership. Benkabbou said having a new presidential administration in place will allow business owners to have a fresh start with centralized regulations on how to keep everyone protected from the virus.
“I think that hopefully with a new administration we will be able to restore some sort of leadership and have a clear path of what guidelines we’re supposed to follow that are actually in our best interests and that are geared to protecting us and our employees and making sure we’re safe,” Benkabbou said.