Tampa Bay’s small businesses look to coronavirus stimulus bill to survive

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) – There are several Tampa Bay area businesses counting on a financial relief bill to help them stay afloat and, for some, to eventually re-open doors.

If the bill passes, it could help many struggling bars, shops and restaurants to survive.

Long Ash Cigars in Ybor City has been around for eight years and was recently thriving.

“We were in peak season a month ago. Life was good, you know? Obviously things have now changed drastically,” owner Mike Cincunegui said.

What once was a place for people to come drink, smoke and socialize is now empty. Liquor sales have stopped per the governor’s mandate, and coffee and cigars are to-go only.

“A huge drop. A huge drop in everything. I mean, I kind of consider our business a luxury business,” said Cincunegui.

In West Tampa, cars line up outside El Gallo de Oro. The owners of the more than 30-year-old restaurant use social media to drive business, reminding customers they change gloves often, sanitize and serve the food up right to their cars. The lobby is now closed.

“Everything is changing and if you don’t try to change with the times, unfortunately with coronavirus, I don’t know what to do,” said Julissa Orama, who owns the restaurant with her husband Chris.

Both El Gallo and Long Ash Cigars are looking to see what Washington does with a $2 trillion coronavirus relief bill. The bill includes $365 billion that would be in loans to help pay for rent, employees and benefits that could help weather this viral storm.

“Even if you are going to do a bailout you want to make sure those monies go to the right places and not all go straight to the top and fatten pockets that are already pretty fat,” said Cincunegui.

At El Gallo, the owners are cautious about government loans, preferring the money go to their employees stuck at home.

Florida Congressman Vern Buchanan says the loans will be completely forgiven if used to pay workers, provide benefits or cover rent.

“It gives you a little bit more hope. It makes you feel like maybe we can get out of this,” said Orama.

Once the U.S. Senate votes on this bill and it passes it will go to the House. There might be some concerns from House Democrats, but the bill is expected to be signed by the President by the end of the week.

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