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LEE COUNTY LEADERS DISCUSS HOW TO SPEND $135 MILLION IN FEDERAL FUNDS
Lee County commissioners met this week to decide how to allocate $135 million from the federal government for issues related to COVID-19. One option that would have a large impact on the community is rent and mortgage assistance. The county will start by creating a framework to deliver $50 million to families who need help, says Commission Chairman Brian Hamman. That help starts with getting businesses back open so they can bring back their employees, so Hamman said other uses of the money could go to emergency medical response expenses, payroll for public health and public safety employees, and economic support such as small business programs. Commissioners also want to allocate money for local food banks that have seen a dramatic increase in need since the pandemic started. The board will discuss funds for food banks at its meeting next week, WINK News reports.
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POSSIBLE BANKRUPTCY BY HERTZ WOULD AFFECT SOUTHWEST FLORIDA
Hertz is in deep financial trouble. A new filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission questions whether the Estero-based company can last another year. If the car rental giant goes bankrupt, it could have a big impact on Southwest Florida, WINK News reports. “It’s our brand name. Anyone that hears about Hertz in Estero, they go, ‘Oh wow, that’s where Estero is,’ instead of the other way around,” says Bill Ribble, mayor of Estero Village, where Hertz moved its headquarters in 2013. So, the SEC filing in which Hertz says it “concluded there is substantial doubt regarding the company’s ability to continue” worries Ribble. “Think about the payroll, and the multiplier that goes with that, and the money that’s spent not only here in Estero but many of those folks live in Fort Myers, all over Lee County and down into Collier County,” the mayor said.
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MORE AMERICANS SAVING MONEY, WHICH EXPERTS SAY POSES RISK TO ECONOMY RECOVERY
Americans are saving more of their money and spending less amid insecurity from the pandemic, but financial experts say it could also pose a risk to our economy’s recovery, WINK News reports. Studies show that in recent years, people have been saving 3 to 6 cents on each dollar they make, but new data finds they are now saving 13 cents of each dollar. “As a consumer becomes concerned about the economic outlook, the tendency is to cut back on spending and when consumers do this en masse, that lack of activity on the part of the consumer actually serves to slow or increase the slowing of the economy,” said Dr. Shelton Weeks, a finance expert at Florida Gulf Coast University. Weeks says there is hope, though, that saving now and spending later could help the economy down the road. “It’s going to allow people to make prudent investments down the road, but that has a longer-term effect than what we would see if consumers were to take money, say the stimulus money, and pour that back into the economy today.” Aside from spending less and saving more, studies show that people are also slashing their debt on credit cards so they can be prepared if their jobs are threatened.
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SWFL RESTAURANTS HIRING AS EMPLOYEES DON’T RETURN TO WORK
As restaurants reopen in Southwest Florida, many are hiring as some employees aren’t returning because of coronavirus risks, WINK News reports. Bayside Grille on Fort Myers Beach is one restaurant that has lost employees. “We have staff that have been here for years; we have a family thing going on here. We’ve got a lot of good people and, unfortunately, they’re not all going to come back,” says owner Robyn Schuckert, who said she respects their decision. Joseph Liu, assistant professor of management at Florida Gulf Coast University, said the job workers left isn’t the same one they would return to. As part of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Phase 1 order, restaurants can only operate at 25 percent capacity in their dining rooms. If a server survives off tips, the job will be a lot more stressful, especially when employees have to keep themselves and their customers safe. So, Bayside Grille is one of many local restaurants looking for servers and bartenders.
TRANZACT TO HIRE MORE THAN 100 INSURANCE AGENTS IN FORT MYERS
TRANZACT, a direct-to-consumer health care company that links individuals to U.S. insurance carriers, announced plans to expand its sales center operations at 12901 McGregor Blvd. in Fort Myers. The company, which operates the licensed insurance agency TZ Insurance Solutions selling Medicare and Life Insurance products, was acquired by Willis Towers Watson in 2019. TRANZACT is actively looking to hire sales agents from all backgrounds in Lee County, as they plan to increase current headcount by more than 114% to meet industry demands. TRANZACT plans to hire 110 insurance sales agents by September, ahead of the fall Medicare Annual Enrollment Period. TRANZACT will be hosting virtual job fairs via WebEx, led by an HR associate, to meet with potential applicants and share insights into the sales agent roles. Interested candidates can apply here. Interviews are being conducted via video on an ongoing basis.
THE BUTCHER STEAKHOUSE REPLACING AGAVE THIS FALL IN NORTH NAPLES
The Butcher steakhouse is coming this fall to North Naples to the former space of Agave, which closed last weekend. Corinne Ryan and Veljko Pavicevic, the co-founding owners of Sails Restaurant in downtown Naples, on Wednesday revealed their next venture — a sophisticated 220-seat steakhouse with a high-end burger bar and lounge, plus four private dining rooms for celebrations, meetings and more. Starting Nov. 1, The Butcher opens year-round for lunch, dinner and private dining at 2380 Vanderbilt Beach Road, just west of Airport-Pulling Road. “Like Sails, The Butcher’s focus is on product and service excellence,” Pavicevic said in a news release. “Only the emphasis here will be impeccably-sourced USDA prime beef, grass-fed-prime, and Australian wagyu — with a priority for hormone-free and antibiotic-free meat.” The menu will also feature grilled seafood that Sails is so well-known for, and modern takes on “traditional” steakhouse sides. Another carryover: The Butcher will feature Sails’ acclaimed craft cocktail program. The wine list will expand to more than 1,000-plus labels boasting sustainably harvested, hard-to-find gems from independent producers across the globe. “Our goal is winning Wine Spectator’s coveted Grand Award by 2021,” Pavicevic said. Designed to enhance the guest experience, contemporary country club, comfortable décor with plush furnishings will imbue both the indoor and an expansive outdoor space which totals 6,000 square feet. The Butcher’s name takes its inspiration from Ryan’s two-decade-long career as one of the world’s top meat brokers and notably, one of the very few women in that industry.
IN THE KNOW
2020 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday coming soon
Florida’s 2020 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday will be held from May 29 to June 4. Portable generators and fuel containers are among the items qualified for tax-free purchases, along with fuel cans, according to the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (OPEI). OPEI offers the following tips to help buyers: Research generators online before you buy, know that generators offer a variety of features, identify where you will put the generator, and keep generators dry. The full list of supplies that are part of Florida’s 2020 Disaster Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday are available here. For information on proper fueling for outdoor power equipment, visit LookBeforeYouPump.com.
Video courtesy of WINK News
Grocery prices on the rise, while relief may be months away
Grocery prices are on the rise, and experts say it could take months to return to normal. It’s simply an issue of supply and demand because more people are cooking at home rather than venturing out to eat during the pandemic. Food prices in April posted their biggest monthly increase since 1974, WINK News reports. In addition to meat shortages because of processing plants temporarily closing, products that take longer to produce become limited and those are the items you could see get more expensive. If you want to save money while shopping, here is a list of several money-saving apps you can use when buying your groceries.
Healthcare Network offers mental health conversations for frontline health workers in Florida
Healthcare Network will host a series of free virtual conversations tailored for healthcare workers throughout Florida. The discussions, to be held twice a week from May 19 through June 11, will focus on reactions, coping strategies and resilience-building related to COVID-19. Registration and information for each section are available at HealthcareSWFL.org and can be anonymous. Conversations will be conducted via Microsoft Teams, and participants do not need to have this platform to participate. Participants with questions can contact Mariana Minguela at 239-658-3000 or email MMinguela@HealthcareSWFL.org.
Dragon Horse Agency continues to offer free marketing consultations to navigate coronavirus impact
Dragon Horse Agency continues to offer free, one hour, consultations for business and marketing related concerns to all Southwest Florida businesses and nonprofits impacted by the coronavirus. If interested, email firstname.lastname@example.org and include the company name, contact information, industry, and specific areas of concern. The team at Dragon Horse Agency will respond as quickly as possible to arrange your consultation. For further information, visit dragonhorseagency.com.
Millennial Brewing, partners to present virtual plant-based burger battle
Millennial Brewing Co. in downtown Fort Myers will host the first-ever “Plant-Based Virtual Burger Battle” amidst COVID-19, with the help of Food Idea Group and Carbon Press to benefit the Humane Haven Animal Sanctuary. This 100% plant-based burger battle is meant to support local restaurants, bring attention to the supply chain breakdown and alternative meat options, and deliver a safe and enjoyable event to the public in time for National Burger Day on May 29. The Burger Battle will allow local restaurants and food trucks from Port Charlotte to Marco Island to go head-to-head in offering a single competition burger that is 100% plant-based. Customers can purchase a plant-based burger for take-out from any of the participating food trucks or restaurants during the first five days of the competition and are encouraged to register their votes online for the Best Plant-Based Burger. Voting URLs will be provided upon purchase for voting. To view participating restaurants or to enter into the competition, visit swflburgerbattle.com. The six-day burger battle will culminate in a social-distance tailgate at Millennial Brewing from 5-10 p.m. on May 30. VIP tailgate spots are available for a $20 donation to Humane Haven Sanctuary.
The Immokalee Foundation receives $25,000 from United Way of Collier and the Keys
The Immokalee Foundation has received $25,000 in funding from United Way of Collier and the Keys‘ Project ALICE grant program for fiscal year 2020-21 to support the foundation’s initiative, Career Pathways: Empowering Students to Succeed. The United Way grants are awarded to local community impact programs that empower members classified as ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed) to move from survival to sustainability. The Immokalee Foundation’s Career Pathways is a career-centric program that engages Immokalee students beginning in the sixth grade and guides them throughout their educational journeys. The goal: To select a professional career and earn the credentials necessary to achieve their dreams.
Naples Therapeutic Riding Center receives $16,500 grant from The League Club
Naples Therapeutic Riding Center (NTRC) has received a $16,500 grant from The League Club Inc.’s Community Trust Fund. The grant will provide participant scholarships as well as support for general operations which have been greatly affected by the loss of revenue brought on by the suspension of programming due to the coronavirus. The grant was originally intended to fund weekly therapeutic riding lessons for children and adults with cognitive, physical and emotional disabilities. Funding will also provide scholarships for equine-facilitated learning and psychotherapy groups, which are provided in collaboration with local nonprofits serving the mental health needs of the region’s most vulnerable populations. Grants awarded to 44 area nonprofits by The League Club of Naples, Florida total $415,387 to provide basic humanitarian needs. In a special Board session, the Board voted to release restrictions usually applied that grant distributions be spent on specific projects.
Charity for Change receives $2,500 capacity grant from the Community Foundation of Collier County
Charity for Change has received a $2,500 capacity grant from the Community Foundation of Collier County that will be used to update the program platform and 12-year-old Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) educational programs. In 2008, Charity for Change started with two in-school programs in Collier County. Since then, the organization has served more than 62,000 children in Florida and several other states in afterschool, summer school, in-school and pre-school settings. The Community Foundation of Collier County awards annual grants through a competitive application and review process
YMCA hosts bicycle giveaway for young children
The Greater Naples YMCA, in partnership with Bikes for Tykes and Epilepsy Florida, hosted a free bike and helmet distribution for children and families on May 9 at the Greater Naples YMCA on Pine Ridge Road. A total of 55 children from 38 local families attended the event. More than 50 children received new or refurbished bikes that were previously collected during the YMCA’s Bike Drive last month.