FRIDAY ROUND-UP
This article came across my Facebook feed and I thought it was an interesting share.
“10 words and phrases to stop saying in 2021," is from Fast Company, part of their Mindfulness at Work series. These words generally diminish and minimize, at a time when speaking purposefully is key, says author and leadership coach Terre Short. As you go through the words, you will probably realize that you use most of them, as I do. Might take me a bit, maybe removing one word at a time, but I like knowing that I could speak more positively in general and be more careful with my words. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration announced extended deferment periods for all disaster loans, including the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, until 2022. 

  • All SBA disaster loans made in calendar year 2020, including COVID-19 EIDL, will have a first payment due date extended from 12-months to 24-months from the date of the note. 

  • All SBA disaster loans made in calendar year 2021, including COVID-19 EIDL, will have a first payment due date extended from 12-months to 18-months from the date of the note. 

A new grant is available through the SBA: the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program was established by the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act, and amended by the American Rescue Plan Act. The program includes over $16 billion in grants to shuttered venues, to be administered by SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance. Eligible applicants may qualify for grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue, with the maximum amount available for a single grant award of $10 million. $2 billion is reserved for eligible applications with up to 50 full-time employees. 

The SBA also shared an Issue Brief, The Effects of the Covid-19 Pandemic on Small Business, which you can read here.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATES
Legislative updates as of March 25, 2021.



VISIT FLORIDA UPDATE - The Chamber supports this bill and is monitoring as it moves through committees.  
TOURIST & CONVENTION DEVELOPMENT TAXES (HB1429 / SB2008) - On March 22, HB1429 made it through the Ways & Means Committee and is now headed to the State Affairs Committee on March 29 at 1:00PM. Though some of the Representatives do not necessarily agree with the bill, they voted to approve so that there could be further discussion. Does not make sense to me, but then I am not an elected official.  

The Senate has not scheduled any committee meetings to hear their bill, but we are monitoring.  

The Chamber does not support the proposed changes and has developed this position statement:  

The Greater Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce supports preserving the current uses of Tourist Development Taxes and opposes any expansion of those uses outside of current tourism marketing activities.
COVID LIABILITY PROTECTION – On the House side, there are two bills, HB7 (Business) and HB7005 (Healthcare) and they are moving quickly. HB7, the Business protection bill has been approved by the House. HB7005, which covers Healthcare, is still working its way through. The Senate opted to merge SB72 and SB74 so Business COVID litigation protection is now partnered with Healthcare and in Committee meetings this week.  
MAIN STREET FAIRNESS – (HB15, SB50) Here is a press release that provides more details on the bills.

On Thursday, the Florida Senate passed SB50, which offsets a looming $713 million tax increase with revenue that has always been due, but that will finally be collected, from a sales tax on online sales. This bill by Senator Joe Gruters is not a new tax on Floridians, however the bill shifts the burden to the business to collect and remit the tax instead of the consumer. Florida and Missouri are the only two states that have not passed economic nexus legislation following the Wayfair U.S. Supreme Court decision.

This bill is the result of an announcement made between Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls who were rightfully concerned with rising unemployment tax rates as employers try and keep doors open and do their part to relaunch our economy. This creative solution combines two of the Florida Chamber’s top priorities this legislative session by leveling the playing field for main street businesses and avoiding a significant tax increase on Florida’s job creators.

Today’s action to backfill the trust fund over the next several years, barring any additional black swan events, ensures that job creators will be held harmless from massive unemployment tax increases resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic as they seek to accelerate Florida’s economic recovery.
On Thursday, Governor Ron DeSantis announced new eligibility guidelines for COVID-19 vaccinations in Florida:

Beginning Monday, March 29, all individuals age 40 and older will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

Beginning Monday, April 5, all individuals age 18 and older will be eligible to receive the vaccine.

Floridians are encouraged to pre-register at www.myvaccine.fl.gov. Once pre-registered, they will be contacted when the vaccine is available in their area.

The scheduling number for Lee County is 866-200-3468. The Lee County help desk can be reached at 888-499-0851. Their TTY line is 855-665-6608. The Lee County vaccination location is Southwest Florida International Airport RSW, 16000 Chamberlin Pkwy., Fort Myers, 33913

Here is a list of Florida county help desks.
As some of our local committees and councils are beginning to meet in-person again, I will begin sharing relevant updates. Each month, I will include a letter from Chris Spiro, Spiro & Associates, GFMCC Board member and current chair of the Horizon CouncilThis first letter shares a little bit about the history of the Horizon Council and offers an update on achievements from the past year.  

I recently joined a committee of the Horizon Council, the Inclusion & Diversity committee, chaired by Guido Minaya. We held our first meeting on Tuesday as a “formal committee” and I will be part of the Advocacy subcommittee, working with Karen Moore, SWFL Business Today and Dr. Peter Ndiang'ui, Adjunct Professor from FGCU. I look forward to combining the outcome with the work of the Chamber's
Equity committee. 
I hope you have signed up for our “Beers With Your Peers” event taking place this coming Monday, March 29 at Fort Myers Brewing – it is going to be great to see everyone. We are also headed towards some unseasonably warm weather so casual attire is recommended! 
 
Have a great weekend, stay safe and #shoplocal 

-Colleen