Broward County officials plan to offer aid to businesses reporting losses from COVID-19 crisis

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – Brad Benson arrived at Fort Lauderdale from Massachusetts on Wednesday. He said he wasn’t concerned about the global spread of COVID-19 cases, which World Health Organization experts described as a pandemic.

Florida and Massachusetts have both reported cases. In Broward County, the Florida Department of Health reported four cases. Investigators found three of them interacted with tourists while working for Metro Cruise Services at various Port Everglades’ cruise terminals in Fort Lauderdale.

“The wind will be blowing and hopefully no one will be sneezing on me,” Benson said.

Despite tourists like Benson, Broward County Mayor Dale Holness said it is inevitable that the industry will suffer a major loss as the number of COVID-19 cases increases in Florida. He and other officials are preparing to offer aid to the private sector.

“We are already seeing rates down. We are seeing slower traffic at the airport,” Holness said. “At the seaport, our cruises are down tremendously.”

Last week, Holness met with Vice President Mike Pence and cruise industry leaders who say they are getting more cancelations than reservations for travel plans up to 12 months in advance.

Dan Linblade, the president of the Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce, said travelers are second-guessing their plans and postponing them. This, he said, is affecting hotel reservations and small businesses that depend on tourism in the area.

“We know we are going to have some short-term losses, so we asked congress for some aid in their emergency funding appropriations,” Linblade.

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