TAMPA, Fla — A second round of help is on the way as Congress finally agrees on a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill.
The bill must still be voted on and that is expected to happen Monday, Dec. 21.
There are several elements to the bill which include the revival of the Paycheck Protection Program, an extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for the unemployed and a second round of stimulus checks.
“Our water taxi is economic development and its purest form. Everyone that comes down to ride the water taxi has to park, has to eat, has to visit an attraction,” said Troy Manthey, the owner of Yacht Starship Dining cruises and Pirate Water Taxi.
He says that was until COVID hit. 2020 has taken their usual profits and employees on a roller coaster ride.
“Basically we went from 145 full-time employees to 13 employees,” he said
The CARES act, which included PPP loans, helped Manthey bring most of them back.
“They went directly to payroll, and direct expenses. So our interest payments on our debt, on the payroll for our employees which was the biggest expense by far, fuel for cruises, electric, electricity and rent payments,” he said.
But now, they’re treading back into uncertain water.
Manthey says in October they felt really hopeful because a lot of folks were hopping on and cruising around in the water taxis. But now that COVID cases are on the rise once again, he says these PPP loans will be crucial.
Congress came to a deal Sunday afternoon which allots $284 billion to small businesses to revive PPP loans. It also puts aside $20 billion for small business grants.
“We’re in for a rough first quarter,” Manthey said.
For example, the Starship Dining cruise, which can hold 600, will have less than 200 guests when it sets sail on New Year's Eve, and some bookings for next year are being postponed into 2022.
“Last week, as fate would have it and have it we got our letter in the mail that says the first PPP loan that we received was fully forgiven so we were very excited to receive that,” Manthey said.
He’s thankful to see more help is on the way.
The COVID-19 relief package will also help those unemployed. It extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance Program and provides a $300 dollar weekly benefit for 11 weeks.
A second round of stimulus checks will also go out. $600 for someone who makes less than $75,000 and an extra $600 per family member.
Lawmakers say the checks could hit bank accounts by next week.