MATLACHA — As the State of Florida works to contain the spread of COVID-19, another crisis is already brewing.
Millions of people who work in the restaurant industry are now in danger of losing their jobs. Now, people across the state are scrambling to find a solution.
At Miceli’s restaurant on Pine Island, it should be the busiest time of the year. Instead, the only business they’re doing is takeout, and the majority of the 60 or so employees who work there are on furlough. Now, instead of slinging drinks, bartender James Cannon said, he’s filing for government benefits.
“I’m just going to try to keep my head above water, just trying to do what I can. Unfortunately, I’ve got to collect unemployment," said Cannon.
Cannon said, especially here in Florida, the Coronavirus could not have hit at a worse time.
“This is the busiest time of our year. This is the time that a lot of people put the money back in their bank accounts to make it through the summer, through the lean months of the summer, and that’s going to be hard to do now," said Cannon.
Cannon is just one of a growing number of people losing their jobs during this crisis. Last week, the Governor shut down bars, restaurants, and nightclubs. According to the National Restaurant Association, that’s an industry that employs 12% of people in the state of Florida.
Now, a catering company out of Miami has put a petition on Change.org, trying to inspire the Governor to do something. It’s already got more than 19,000 signatures, and many people in southwest Florida are on-board.
“I hope there’s going to be passage of a bill, to give people that have lost their jobs, or have decreased income, some type of relief," said Douglas Brust, a doctor at the McGregor Clinic in Fort Myers.
Brust said, even though he supports the petition, he doesn’t want to wait for the government to take action. So he started a GoFundMe page, and it’s already raised more than $1,000.
“We wanted to also get involved very quickly, so that people have, that there’s no sort of apathy about helping people," said Brust.
He hopes to give the money he raises directly to restaurant workers who have lost their jobs. Cannon said, it’s a start, and he hopes to see more ideas like this soon to prevent a statewide economic disaster.
“Hopefully within maybe the next couple of weeks, as things as things get worse, maybe there will be some relief efforts," said Cannon.