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Hillsborough Co. leaders set up Economic Recovery Task Force in first steps of reopening economy

Task force will tackle reemployment, retention and recovery
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Posted at 6:23 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-20 08:08:00-04

TAMPA, Fla. -- Hillsborough leaders are taking the first steps to reopen the county's economy.

The Emergency Policy Group has started a task force to get a sense of how local businesses are coping and what can be done to get them back up and running.

It's a complex national discussion. The balancing act between public health ad figuring out just when is the right time to reopen the economy and how to go about doing that.

The Economic Recovery Task Force will work to figure out ways to speed up the process of helping businesses and workers get back on their feet.

"I think what it says to our businesses is that we recognize these are unprecedented times and that we have to quickly develop recommendations and policies that will help jump-start our economy right away," said Craig Richard, the CEO and President of the Tampa Bay Economic Development Council which heads the task force.

The task force will focus on three key areas: Re-employing and retraining dislocated workers, supporting local businesses, and short- and long-term recovery strategies.

"We just need to make sure that we pivot, really quickly when we can open this back up again. The economy's still functioning strongly there's no underlying issue with it. Other than the fact that we're dealing with this virus it's really forced everybody to stop doing what they've been doing for a long time," said John Flanagan, CEO of CareerSource Tampa Bay which is part of the task force.

The EDC will help coordinate meetings and communicate recommendations. The process will involve the EDC, city and county economic development staff, Career Source Tampa Bay, industry sector leaders, academic leaders, non-profit leaders and small business assistance leaders.

"It's the most serious we've ever seen," said Santiago Corrada, CEO of Visit Tampa Bay. The agency is part of the task force. "Our industry has gone through so many things in the past when you think about red tide or you think about hurricanes, or you think about prior pandemics. We've been able to deal with so many of those situations and bounce back very strongly so we know we'll be able to bounce back. The problem with this one is the when.

However, ABC Action News is learning there are currently no healthcare professionals within the task force to help shape the recommendations before it gets to the hands of EPG members.

But leaders vow medical voices will be heard.

"These decisions are intertwined," said Richard. "Public health professionals will need to be working side by side with business leaders to understand what they can do to expeditiously open up our economy."

Richard says they are still working out who will make up the task force.

County Administrator Mike Merrill, says the recommendations should be informed by a public health perspective. In an email, he said:

This perspective will come from the Florida Department of Health and experts at the USF School of Public Health without the necessity of requiring that these key medical personnel, who are on the frontline in dealing with this crisis, spend their time on a task force.
Mike Merrill, County Administrator

Commissioner Sandra Murman said the EPG is tackling the virus from all ends of the spectrum.

We now have a health statistics dashboard to drive our decision making and the development of an economic recovery plan to bring about re-employment and business retention and support services. So we have definitely added to our agenda the full scope of what is happening with this virus from the health aspect to the jobless to the business recovery. Once the economic plan is complete is will be folded into our scope of work on the EPG to complete the circle of the pandemic crisis in Hillsborough County so we can get our residents back on their feet and get the doors of businesses open again.
Commissioner Sandra Murman

Meanwhile, Sheriff Chad Chronister expresses concerns about the role of the EPG in making long-lasting policies when it comes to the coronavirus.

This health crisis has carried on now for more than 30 days, and it demonstrates a fundamental system of government challenge. Emergency policy groups, such as the one we have here locally, are not designed to set long-term policies or make long-term economic planning decisions. Emergency planning is short-term preservation of the health, safety, and welfare of our community and property. Emergency policy is designed to be short in time and pinpointed towards very acute issues that threaten life and safety. Historically, the emergency policy group stands up in the face of an incoming hurricane, opens shelters, sets curfews to keep people out of the high winds and danger, and then unwinds to allow county commissions and city councils to continue the regular, open government activities we expect and deserve.

I do not believe the emergency policy group has the authority to decide how will we support small business growth, assist with unemployment issues, and control our basic government infrastructure. County commissions, city council, mayors, and local business leaders must return to the regular channels of government – not emergency planning - - to restart our economy. The emergency policy group will assist in ending this state of emergency - - with a data driven approach and the best medical advice available on our planet. We will do that work methodically, openly, and hopefully, quickly. When that moment happens, we should return to our normal channels of government to rebuild our economy, workforce, and infrastructure. When that moment comes, my team at the Sheriff’s office will continue to support those government decisions by keeping our streets safe, our crime rate low, and our community engaged in public safety.
Sheriff Chad Chronister

CareerSource Tampa Bay, which is part of the task force, tells ABC Action News a primary goal would be to get the workforce ready to go including training them for new industries. This may be part of some of the first recommendations from the Economic Recovery Group.
 
Recommendations are expected by May. In the meantime, if you or your business needs help, you can turn to some of these resources complied by Hillsborough County leaders.

Guidance and help from Hillsborough County

Guidance and help from the federal government

Financial help and guidance

Help from the State of Florida
If you have lost your job and you need help with unemployment benefits call 1-800-204-2418 or go online at FloridaJobs.org and click Reemployment Assistance Service Center to learn more about the program and watch a short video about how to apply.

Looking for a job
CareerSource Tampa Bay, supported by Hillsborough County, can help workers whose livelihoods are affected by COVID-19.

Here’s how to reach CareerSource Tampa Bay by telephone:

  • Tampa: (813) 930-7400
  • Brandon: (813) 930-7832
  • Ruskin: (813) 419-5300
  • Plant City: (813) 930-7400; extension 5563