Businesses Reopen in Florida Lowering Unemployment
by Arina Smith Business Planning & Opportunities 27 October 2020
According to WCJB, Florida’s unemployment numbers rose drastically in August due to the pandemic. However, recent news from the Sunshine State has seen unemployment numbers slowly start to return to their pre-pandemic levels. With businesses tasked with reopening but forced to obey social distancing protocols might be the start of a recovery for the state. Florida has been one of the states hardest hit by the pandemic, not least of all because of its focus on small businesses to help boost its local economy. As more information comes to light, we learn more about reopenings by LLCs and other small businesses. Whether this will be enough to push the economy back into gear remains to be seen.
COVID-19 and Florida Businesses
It’s no secret that Florida has been suffering because of the COVID-19 shelter-in-place orders. While business owners are champing at the bit to return to operating status, residents are still unsure what the impact will be. The timing for the state couldn’t have been worse. Florida is used to seeing an uptick in trade and commerce during the summer months, but the virus’s arrival curtailed any Spring Break celebrations and shut down Spring Training sessions.
When the stay-at-home orders started to come out on April 1st, many businesses were faced with a tough binary choice – adapt or shut down. Some businesses shifted to an online presence and manage to survive with the help of delivery services. Other companies relied on savings to pay rental fees and keep them running during the lockdown. The easing of restrictions led to some businesses getting just a trickle of income.
A Potential Long Term Impact
tourism-dependent businesses make up a significant part of the state’s income. With global borders remaining closed until the virus is dealt with, these businesses may remain in mothballs for some time. Since they have no need for employees until they reopen, many of these companies have let their employees go. The result is that unemployment around Florida is on the rise.
In May, unemployment rates in several Florida counties crossed 10%. Orange County, home to Disney World, Universal, among other internationally famous attractions saw unemployment hit a whopping 23%. Tourism is typically seasonal, but with this season being completely untenable, businesses now have to worry about whether they’ll be able to get the people they need to continue operations once things return to a semblance of normalcy.
Paradigm Shift Necessary
Around the country, businesses are shifting to a much larger online presence to protect their family wealth. Several companies have realized that the future of their business depends on how they limit their physical space. For smaller businesses, this has been a godsend, since they can move their companies into the online space with just a little bit of effort. However, a large volume of small businesses don’t know how to operate online and aren’t aware of how they could pivot into offering goods and services over the internet. For these small businesses, it’s a struggle to maintain their clientele, especially since they can’t open their doors physically. Several cities in Florida have taken up the mantle to provide better infrastructure to businesses looking to move into a more online-centric system.
Extended Furloughs Not Helping
Because the hotel business is extremely competitive, many of Florida’s top chains have furloughed their most prized employees. However, as the pandemic continues, many of these hotel chains are still operating well below their expected levels for this time of the year. They have informed employees that they may not be able to recall workers for at least six months after the end of the season. These workers now have a hard choice to wait for their recalls or seek employment elsewhere.
A Political Quagmire
Florida remained one of the states affected last in the US, but their infection numbers surged after the first contact with the virus. CNN reports that political meandering by the state’s governor, Ron DeSantis led to runaway infection rates. With a significant demographic of the state within the high-risk bracket of over-65s, this state is the worst potential place for a COVID-19 outbreak. Therefore, it’s not surprising that the state is noted as the epicenter for the outbreak in the southern United States.
Reopening Schools and Business Restoration
Florida responded to the outbreak by facing it head-on. In a move that intended to address the herd immunity of the population, DeSantis ordered that schools be opened in August. Additionally, Florida remains one of the few states that haven’t instituted a mandatory mask law just yet. In early June, the governor locked down bars and restaurants to slow the initial spike in cases. The limited response seems to have had little to no effect, as by time August, the state had a recorded 300,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases. The pressure to continue operation may stem from Florida’s welcoming environment to businesses. As one of the tax-friendly locations to set up an LLC, it depends on these businesses remaining in operation to pay its bills.
Additional impacts on the economy include the fact that many agricultural enterprises need seasonal workers to function. The closure of borders ensured that these seasonal workers couldn’t easily get access to their jobs. These jobs are mostly manual labor requiring physical presence to do. When further shelter-in-place orders came, these businesses, like so many others in the state, had to shut down for the good of their employees.
A Slow Recovery
Florida is still in the grip of massive infection numbers, but they may see the light at the end of the tunnel. The housing market is booming, and while other contributors to the economy like airlines and tourist locations are still suffering, small businesses’ reopening may be the first step to righting the ship. Previous reports saw a rising jobless rate in the state, but locals are hopeful that the numbers will drop as more businesses continue to reopen. Both consumers and employees will benefit from the reopenings, fueling a potential growth to the state’s ailing economy.