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Florida Ports Seeking Federal Help

August 6th, 2020 by Jake Stofan

Florida ports have never stopped working through the pandemic, bringing in much needed consumer goods to stock shelves while the world locked down, but they say they’re facing an economic crisis.

Without help in the next federal stimulus package thousands of jobs could be at risk.

Early on imports like steel, automobiles and fuel took a hit.

“We’re starting to see some of this come back,” said Doug Wheeler, President and CEO of the Florida Ports Council.

Wheeler said the worst damage has been to the cruise industry, with ships docked through the end of October.

“We’re seeing some pretty serious consequences from the pandemic. In some cases as much as 60 to 70 percent of port revenue basically gone overnight,” said Wheeler.

So far, ports haven’t received any help through the crisis, despite additional costs for cleaning, staffing, paid leave and PPE.

Wheeler fears as many as 169,000 jobs and $23 billion in economic activity could be lost without additional help.

The ports hope to secure $3.5 billion in the next federal stimulus.

The Council sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on August 3rd.

In it they specifically requested $1.5 billion for U.S. seaports and at least $2 billion for other maritime businesses.

“That relief money could be used to provide protection equipment or make modifications. I mean I think we’re learning daily that whether it’s cruise or cargo operations, they’re not going to look the same as they did nine months ago,” said Wheeler.

And if ports are forced to shrink, Mark Wilson, President and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce told us every Floridian could see the impacts on store shelves.

“Those products aren’t going to be able to get in and out of Florida. So in terms of the economy, ports are almost like breathing air and drinking water,” said Wilson.

Overall, ports supply 900,000 Florida jobs and contribute more than $117 billion to the state’s economy each year.

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