TAMPA BAY, FLA. — On March 18th, 2020 Tina Maria Avila was forced to do something she hasn’t had to do since opening Casa Tina’s Mexican Restaurant.
“We shutdown for the first time in 20 years,” she said. “I will always remember that day. It was my birthday.”
St. Petersburg Hair Stylist Maria Garvey’s salon, Salon Loft, shutdown as well. Just about every business followed.
“I can’t believe we were shutdown,” Garvey said. “we weren’t working.”
Governor Ron Desantis chose to shut the state down in an effort to flatten the curve and stop the spread of the Coronavirus. The shutdown last three months.
“And we’re still dealing with this, more than a year later,” said Avila.
As of Tuesday, March 2nd, The U.S. has more than 28 million cases, and more than 500K deaths.
The pandemic has affected everyone in some way. People are emotionally and mentally drained, some are on the brink of being flat broke.
“It’s just been so difficult.”
Avila said sales at her restaurant are down 48 percent from 2019. She had to me major cuts, and not just with her staff.
“Friday’s and Saturday’s are super busy. We used to have people… at the bar enjoying themselves from 9:30 in the evening until 11:30,” she said. “That’s where we made a lot of our money. We close at 10 now.”
She said her restaurant is still open thanks to the two stimulus packages, the city’s Covid-19 grants, the city’s decision to allow outdoor seating, and her savings.
“My husband and I are very proud of the fact that we have very minimal debt,” Avila said. “We’ve never borrowed… from anyone. This is the first time in our life that we’ve need assistance. We’re grateful for that assistance.
She, along with millions, are hoping Democrat and Republican senators will find a way to agree about the proposed $1.9 trillion stimulus bill they’re scheduled to vote on this week.
“It will help a lot of people,” she said.
Garvey is following the stimulus bill as well. She said that she hopes there is “some kind of relief” for people. She said a lot of people she knows have taken steps to make sure they’re financially secure in case the bill doesn’t pass, or there’s another shutdown.
“I’ve been concerned about there being another shut down. I’ve started saving some of the extra crash, you know form tips and things like that,” she said. “Because This was so unexpected. Everyone needs to be prepared. “