South Florida's Small Businesses Work to Stay Afloat During Coronavirus Pandemic

Paycheck protection program part of $2 trillion stimulus program

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Small businesses in South Florida are hoping a program from the federal government can help keep them afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.

Pummarola's Pizzeria like many eateries is open for takeout and delivery only at its four locations in Miami and Coral Gables. Owner Larry Mele is hoping the federal government can help financially bridge him through this ordeal. Letting employees go, he says, is hard.

"I did not have a problem to let someone go when someone made a mistake, on the job, but to let somebody go without any reason, it’s not easy," Mele said.

Mele's hoping for help from the paycheck protection program, a part of the $2 trillion stimulus package. Of that, $349 billion is earmarked for small businesses.

Loans could be forgiven if certain requirements are met, like keeping employees on the payroll.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who chairs the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, said the nation's mom and pop stores will need another financial boost when that money runs out.

"First, let me just say, the appetite is there, I think everyone I've talked to in the Senate recognizes we're going to have to go back and do more, and probably more than once," Rubio said.

The program got off to a rocky start Friday with glitches keeping business owners from submitting applications.

"It's supppsed to be easy, I understand there’s millions of companies applying for a loan but it’s a process," Mele said.

Rubio promises better this week. And, he says, his office isn’t just fielding calls from small business owners who typically rent space.

"I'm hearing from people that run whether it’s a little strip mall or a big commercial entity that even their big-name clients are calling and saying 'we’re not paying this month,'" Rubio said.

In some parts of South Florida, entire business districts are shuttered, taking a toll on America’s small businesses, who Mele says should be looking out for each other.

"If you have to order to go or delivery, do it from a small company, that will help us," Mele said.

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