Florida ports seek federal relief after losing $23B during coronavirus pandemic

By The Numbers

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida’s tourism industry has taken a substantial hit since the coronavirus pandemic hit the state in its peak season.

An analysis from transportation and economic analysis firm Martin Associates found Florida ports lost an estimated 169,000 jobs. The loss of cargo and cruise activity at Florida seaports is estimated at almost $23 billion.

Now the Florida Ports Council is asking Congress for federal funds in order to be able to sustain.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), Ports Council CEO Doug Wheeler urged that the upcoming relief package include at least $1.5 billion for seaports and $2 billion for maritime businesses.

“Whether moving over a hundred million tons of cargo annually or millions of cruise passengers, Florida’s seaports generate and support a vast array of commerce and are the international gateways for goods shipped in and out of the state,” Wheeler said. “We urge Congress to pass legislation to provide the maritime sector the same relief that has been offered to other industries during COVID-19, and to close the gap in current federal emergency assistance that has left critical links in the maritime supply chain isolated, impacting Florida jobs and the state-wide economy.”

As a whole, Florida tourism revenue was a fraction of last year’s, with a 10.7 percent decrease from 2019 in the first quarter of 2020.

The rapid spread of coronavirus across the Sunshine State halted a nine-year streak of increased amounts of travelers, which was at 131.4 million in 2019.

International travel to Florida dropped more than 20.6 percent compared to the same time frame last year.

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