Gulfshore Business Daily: March 24

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Editor’s note:

In Monday’s Gulfshore Business Daily newsletter, we published news on employee resources that we received directly from the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association. Upon further review, the assistance we published was internationally based and not intended for Floridians. For that, we apologize.
For more information on Disaster Loan Assistance, please click here. For the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program, click here. For more information or possible resources, click here.
Thank you for your patience and assistance as we continue to provide news updates.


In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, the U.S. Census Bureau has adjusted 2020 Census operations in order to protect the health and safety of Census Bureau employees and the American public; implement guidance from federal, state, and local health authorities; and ensure a complete and accurate count of all communities. On Friday, the Census Bureau extended the end of the self-response phase from July 31 to Aug. 14 and delayed nearly every operation for this year’s census. For instance, the day the Census Bureau counts homeless people outdoors has been changed from April 1 to May 1. The Census Bureau still plans to deliver appointment counts to President Trump by Dec. 31 and will deliver redistricting counts to states by April 1, 2021. For more information go to


Florida is at risk of losing nearly 394,000 hotel-related jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic, according to a state-by-state breakdown of job loss figures for the hotel industry based on Oxford Economics research for the American Hotel and Lodging Association. Florida currently employs 201,433 direct hotel operation jobs and 747,705 in total hotel-supported jobs, according to the report. Florida is projected to lose 88,631 direct hotel operation jobs and 305,146 total hotel-supported jobs due to the Coronavirus, the report also shows. For more information, click here


The coronavirus pandemic continues to impact normal operations at the Southwest Florida International Airport in Fort Myers. Some airlines serving the regional airport are making changes that will affect travelers. Air Canada will suspend trans-border flights on April 1, and Canadian airline WestJet suspended service to RSW effective Monday, March 23, until further notice. To rebook or for more information, click here. Meanwhile, all dining room areas and bars are closed at RSW, but grab-and-go food and beverages are available on all concourses. Also, curbside check-in for American Airlines has been closed at RSW, so checked baggage will need to be processed at the ticket counter. The Lee County Port Authority has increased its frequency of cleaning in high-traffic, high-touch areas at the airport, but it encourages all travelers, visitors and workers at RSW to stay home if they are sick and follow CDC guidelines regarding frequent hand washing and covering noses and mouths when sneezing or coughing. For more information on temporary changes at RSW click here


The Florida Restaurant & Lodging Association is encouraging statewide participation in The Great American Takeout event today to give a boost to struggling restaurants forced to close to dine-in service during the coronavirus pandemic. The Florida organization joins a coalition of national and regional eateries in promoting the special campaign for eating at least one delivery or pick-up meal ordered from a local restaurant today, if possible, or any other day. 


Beginning today, Collier Area Transit and CAT Connect will suspend all fares until further notice. All passengers are to enter and exit through the rear door of the bus. This action will allow for additional distancing between operators and passengers, per CDC guidelines. For CAT routes and time schedules, click here.


Florida Gulf Coast University’s (FGCU) Regional Economic Research Institute is conducting a two-part impact study of the coronavirus in Southwest Florida.  The first part of this study involves surveying Southwest Florida businesses on the effects of the virus on their business, using the responses to develop a benchmark, and then tracking the benchmark over time. Please click here to complete the survey.


Gov. Ron DeSantis on March 20 ordered all restaurants in Florida to eliminate dine-in service and continue with take-out or delivery only. Matanzas on the Bay is open with adjusted hours for take-out options. PierSide Grill and Famous Blowfish Bar on Fort Myers Beach is temporarily closed, but online gift cards are available to purchase here. The Chamber of Southwest Florida is rescheduling the Post-Legislative Session Panel Luncheon from March 26 to May 21. Lee BIA Builders Care is postponing its 11th annual BBQ, Bands & Brew fundraiser, originally set for April 5. Youth Haven’s 33rd annual charity golf tournament, Fairways for the Future, previously scheduled for April 14, has been postponed.


The Florida Small Business Development Center at Florida Gulf Coast University (FSBDC at FGCU) is offering remote one-on-one consulting sessions and free webinars. All face-to-face Florida SBDC-sponsored training events and workshops scheduled between now to May 1 have been canceled. Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples is now offering online play and learn programs. Allyn International Services Inc. has launched complimentary, introductory virtual supply chain training. Bayfront Health Port Charlotte and Punta Gorda are offering a screening option specific to COVID-19. Individuals with concerns or mild to moderate symptoms specific to COVID-19 can use their VirtualHealthConnect app to speak with an experienced healthcare provider using a smartphone or computer. The SBA South Florida District Office will host a series of free Small Business Recovery webinars to provide the latest information on how the SBA is helping small businesses with their economic recovery. Duckberry, a Fort Myers-based home goods and accessories boutique, has unveiled its e-commerce platform, Habitat for Humanity of Lee and Hendry Counties has transitioned its Habitat Homebuyer Information Meetings to a webinar format. The first webinars will be held at 7 a.m. (English) and 10 a.m. (Spanish) today. For more information, click here.  Valerie’s House is launching virtual grief support groups for children and adult caregivers starting March 30. J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and “Ding” Darling Wildlife Society-Friends of the Refuge have debuted programs for stay-at-home families and individuals, including virtual experiences that all ages can enjoy via social media and online here.


The Conservancy of Southwest Florida added Leslie Frécon to the board of directors. Frécon is a managing partner and chief executive officer at LFE Capital. Prior to founding LFE Capital, she was senior vice president, corporate finance, for General Mills, a global consumer foods company. Prior to joining General Mills, Frécon was a commercial loan officer with Bank of America in Los Angeles, managing banking relationships for manufacturing and agribusiness companies. She speaks regularly at business conferences and writes articles about growth equity investing and women in business. The Conservancy’s board of directors is currently led by board chair Van Williams, vice-chair Phil Gresh, treasurer John R. Walter, secretary Gerri Moll, and president and chief executive officer Rob Moher.


Fifth Third Bank programs to support customers, communities

Fifth Third is giving a special payment to employees who are providing essential banking services to customers during the coronavirus pandemic. Fifth Third will provide its customer service and other employees who work on-site a special payment of up to $1,000, which will be paid in $500 installments in April and May. Fifth Third has also launched programs to help customers through financial challenges they may face as a result of the pandemic include payment waivers without penalty for 90 days on a variety of loans, and suspension of repossession and foreclosure actions for 60 days. An $8.75 million philanthropic commitment from the Fifth Third Foundation and Fifth Third Chicagoland Foundation will be used to meet the immediate and long-term needs of communities its serves. The commitment includes $3.25 million for COVID-19 response across our footprint and $5.5 million in Strengthening our Communities Fund grants to support long-term economic sustainability. Temporary modifications to on-site services began on March 21, including appointment-only lobby access at banking centers and reduced hours at Bank Mart locations. For more information, visit

CONRIC staff

#SWFLStrong Campaign launches to connect community in trying times

CONRIC PR & Marketing developed and launched the #SWFLStrong campaign. A SWFL Strong Facebook group has been set up to create a safe space online where all members of the Southwest Florida community can unite and connect to share good thoughts, community information, business developments and stories of goodwill. Members of the group can let the community know about businesses that are open or closed, what family activities you’re enjoying while at home, or share an exercise routine, a special recipe, health tips, or even where to buy toilet paper. What won’t be permitted is politics, negative comments or bullying. CONRIC PR & Marketing hopes to partner with other agencies, organizations and social influencers to help spread the message that we are SWFL Strong. People can also post these positive messages on their social media platforms with the hashtag #SWFLStrong to show unity. For more information, contact

Storm Smart brings community, business leaders together for public service announcements

Storm Smart has partnered with several business and community leaders to deliver a positive and impactful series of public service announcements (PSAs) that will air on television and online during the next few months in response to COVID-19. Storm Smart developed and produced the PSAs urging the community to come together as one to support the most vulnerable people, businesses, and nonprofits in Southwest Florida. These PSAs will air on television stations in Southwest Florida as a reminder to stay calm, stay safe and stay strong. For more information, call (239) 938-1000 or visit

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