Follow Facts; Not Fear
This Week’s Message from Chamber President & CEO Mark Wilson:
In five days it’ll be one year since Florida had it first confirmed case of COVID, and we’re seeing real signs that Florida remains a leader at balancing health, our health system and keeping our economy moving. After a brief delay of the shipment of vaccines due to weather delays, Governor DeSantis announced earlier this week that Florida is back on track and is expecting the vaccine supply to jump to nearly 450,000 doses next week. Along with Governor DeSantis’ commitment to get the vaccine to Florida’s most vulnerable citizens – our seniors – he also announced that with the new shipments, Florida will start prioritizing law enforcement officers and teachers age 50 and older. More than 4 million Floridians have received a dose of the COVID vaccine with nearly 30 percent of those having completed both doses. Thanks to free enterprise, Florida Chamber members like Publix and Walmart have stepped up to work alongside Florida’s leadership to get these vaccines to the public, and this week, Governor DeSantis announced CVS Health will begin offering COVID-19 vaccinations in 81 select CVS Pharmacies. While some want to constantly criticize the private sector for anything and everything, it’s not lost on me that Florida’s job creators always step up when the greater public good is at stake.
You can view the Florida Department of Health’s latest vaccine report by county here.
Overall new cases in Florida are declining, and unlike states like New York, California and Illinois, this is happening while we get Floridians back to work, reopen our schools and rebuild our economy. Florida was one of the first states to reopen safe and smart and it is largely contributed to Governor Desantis, his leadership team and partners throughout Florida. I have been in almost daily contact with Florida Surgeon General Dr. Scott Rivkees – who joined our Board of Governors Monday for an update on vaccine distribution – and his team at the Florida Department of Health have been completely accessible to Florida’s businesses, which I believe has saved lives. Florida’s local chamber network has played a major role in getting information to communities across the Florida, and I am grateful for the partnerships that exist between state leadership, Florida businesses and the many organizations that have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic #Chamberstrong.
Florida’s 2021 Legislative Session begins next week and there is much work to do on behalf of Florida’s businesses. Please be prepared to act on behalf of your business, and the business community as a whole, as two very important pieces of legislation will move through the Florida House and Senate: COVID liability protections for businesses (HB 7 and SB 72) and the online sales tax for out-of-state sellers (HB 15 and SB 50). More on this from our legislative team below. If you haven’t downloaded or viewed our 2021 Florida Chamber Jobs & Competitiveness Agenda, Where We Stand, you can do so here. This is the business community’s agenda for 2021 and we will provide you a report card of how all 160 Florida legislators voted on our priorities at the conclusion of the legislative session. Legislators need – and want – to hear from you, so please make it your priority to call, email, text, provide video testimony or safely visit your state legislator and be certain they know you support certain priorities and oppose more litigation, regulation and taxation.
While Florida is seeing a decrease in COVID cases, I want to remind everybody to be smart and remain vigilant as spring break is just a couple of weeks away. Please keep up the safe practices and continue following the guidelines that have set our business community apart from many across the country and continue to wear masks, physically distance when possible and avoid large crowds. As we’ve seen many times before since the pandemic began, things can go south rather quickly and now is not the time to let the progress we have made go to waste.
Floridians are largely back at work, and while we focus on keeping our employees, customers and vendors safe from COVID-19, it is important to not lose focus on the everyday safety precautions and standards of the American workplace. The Florida Chamber has the goal of making Florida the safest state in the U.S. To accomplish this, we launched our Florida Chamber Safety Council which has become the 19th chapter of the National Safety Council. I would like to invite Florida businesses large and small to the Florida Chamber Safety Council’s inaugural Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health + Sustainability at Disney’s Coronado Springs May 10-12. I encourage all Florida businesses to take advantage of this professional development opportunity and opportunity to network with your peers across industries who share a passion for safety, health, and sustainability as a competitive business advantage. Registration just opened this week, so secure your spot today.
Please find the latest cumulative COVID-19 numbers below:
Florida Chamber Foundation Chief Economist Dr. Jerry Parrish and our research team continue to analyze COVID-19 data and report on it daily at TheFloridaScorecard.org. As cases vary regionally, we also offer a breakdown of data by county so you can know how COVID-19 is trending in your area.
Florida Chamber Safety Council President Katie Yeutter Raising Money for Scholarships at the 22nd Annual Sea to Sea Expedition Race
Yesterday, Florida Chamber Safety Council President Katie Yeutter started Day 1 of the 22nd Annual Sea to Sea 3-day expedition race taking racers from Chassahowitzka, FL to St. Augustine, FL. Katie is participating to raise funds for a scholarship for children of injured safety professionals and first responders. The Scholarship will be awarded at the first annual Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health +Sustainability. Please consider a donation and help support the scholarship fund.
How to Take Risk Management to the Next Level
By Diego Sanchez, CSP, ASP, CHST, OHST
According to the American Society of Safety Professional there four ways for Safety Professionals to improve risk management in their organizations.
1. For Safety Professionals is essential to know how to conduct risk assessments. More importantly, it is knowing how to move those assessments a few levels up in the organization to the decision-makers so they can understand the potential impact within the organization. Building relationships with the organization’s leadership can help safety professionals resolve issues faster and more efficiently.
2. Speaking the language of business. It is not only important to assess risk and find solutions, but it is also important to communicate those hazards to the organization’s leadership in terms that they understand. Safety professionals should not only focus on regulatory compliance but also conduct a cost-benefit analysis to validate the organization’s real impact.
3. Learn risk-based education. There are many tools safety professionals can use to conduct risk assessments as well as formal training; what makes the difference is to learn the industry’s best practices. Safety professionals who follow best practices will ultimately be following compliance.
4. Communicate with the workforce. Workers are the boots-on-the-ground, who would know all about the risks they face every day. Who better to provide better insights about hazards? Talking to the workers takes skills and active listening; they can provide safety professionals with valuable information regarding daily operations. It is important to remember that there is a difference in how safety professionals should communicate with the organization’s leadership as they do with the workers.
OSHA 30-HOUR GENERAL INDUSTRY PUBLIC TRAINING
This 30-hour OSHA outreach course assists employers in training and introducing employees to the basic practices of identifying, reducing, eliminating, and reporting hazards associated with their work in General Industry.
When: March 16 – 19 from 8:00am – 5:00pm EST
Where: Tampa, Florida – Hampton Inn Tampa-Veterans Expressway
Registration Pricing: $550
2021 Legislative Session Begins Next Week
Tuesday, March 2, marks the beginning of the annual 60-day legislative session in Tallahassee. Due to the public health and safety protocols legislative leadership have implemented in response to the pandemic, the 2021 session is shaping up to be amongst the most unique in recent memory for advocacy. As of today, 2,555 bills have been filed covering a variety of issues but many of the focuses of the 2021 Legislature seem to be responding the challenges of 2020. From COVID response and protecting our businesses from frivolous lawsuits to the budgetary uncertainty facing our state due to the pandemic to the need to relaunch and reimagine our economy, business leaders should expect that many of the same issues that dominated much of the last year to be debated and acted upon.
Each year prior to Florida Legislative Session, the Florida Chamber of Commerce releases our annual Where We Stand business agenda that outlines key issues facing Florida’s business community in the coming year. While the COVID-19 global pandemic has temporarily diverted our course, our mission remains focused on securing Florida’s future, and it is more important now than ever. As we relaunch and reimagine Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is uniting Florida’s business community for good, fighting for economic opportunities and growing private-sector jobs. We are standing on the front lines to solve issues that impact Florida’s competitiveness, as well as the future of Florida’s business climate. You can download a copy of the business community’s legislative agenda here: https://www.flchamber.com/advocacy/wherewestand/. We look forward to having your join us in fighting for Florida’s future.
COVID-19 & Relaxing of Government Restrictions
Both the House and Senate have formed pandemic related committees and each body will be looking at lessons learned from the pandemic. Over the last year, the Governor and state agencies relaxed or lifted some rules, regulations and other measures to help businesses get through the pandemic. For example, restaurants were allowed to offer alcohol “to go” as long as it was in a sealed container to help with sales while restaurants were shut down to take out only or at limited capacity.
The Florida Chamber is seeking your guidance on which rules and regulations should be permanently changed. These suggestions will be offered to Senate Select Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and Response Chair Danny Burgess and House Pandemics & Public Emergencies Committee Chair Representative Tom Leek. Any context on how this helped your business during the pandemic and how the change would impact your business or industry going forward will be helpful.
If you have suggestions or ideas, please contact Carolyn Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Workers’ Compensation Claims & COVID-19
The Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation released the January 2021 COVID-19 workers’ compensation claim report, showing an increase of nearly 4500 claims from the previous month’s report. The claims get reported by month of accident, and January showed 1800 indemnity claims being reported. The average paid per closed claim is $3,031 and over $836 million has been paid to date. Of the 33,944 COVID-19 related claims that have been filed, 43 percent have been partially or totally denied. As of January 31, 127 COVID-19 claims have a petition for benefits attached, representing 0.35 percent of all COVID-19 claims.
Federal COVID-19 Relief Legislation Advances; Questions Remain
The House Budget Committee released a 591-page draft of the $1.9 trillion legislation Friday. Some key components of the legislation include:
- $1,400 checks for Americans earning $75,000 or less, or $2,800 for couples earning $150,000 or less, plus $1,400 per dependent
- Renewal of the Paycheck Protection Program for small-business loans
- Funding for schools’ reopening, vaccine distribution, state/local governments, targeted industry groups (restaurants, airports, etc.)
- Increase in the federal minimum wage to $15/hour by 2025
- A $400-a-week boost to federal unemployment benefits through the end of August (up from the current $300/week approved in December)
- An expansion of the child tax credit, including an increase up to $3,600 per child
- Expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit
- Housing, nutrition, and utility support funding
The House package is expected to pass along party lines as early as this week. It then faces a much narrower vote margin in the Senate, which is currently divided 50-50 with VP Harris breaking ties.
Republican senators oppose many of the provisions in the legislation, such as the billions in aid for state and local governments. In this round of negotiations, as in the last round, Republicans have derided the aid as a bailout for Democratic-controlled localities mired in financial problems. A group of Republican senators introduced a smaller proposal totaling about $618 billion, but Democrats forged ahead on their $1.9 trillion plan despite Republicans’ objections.
Intraparty disputes have emerged among Democrats over the inclusion of a federal minimum wage increase. Moderate Democrats such as Sens. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have said they oppose including the $15 minimum wage in the package. Under a provision known as the Byrd Rule, a senator can raise objections to “extraneous” provisions in legislation being passed under reconciliation, and if the objection is ruled in order, then the provision will be stripped from the bill. Provisions are considered “extraneous” if they do not have a substantial effect on the federal budget. Ultimately, the Senate Parliamentarian will rule on this critical question, potentially as early as this week. Even if the provision remains in the final Senate legislation, it is unclear if Democrats like Sinema and Manchin would support it, leaving its future in jeopardy.
Prior to COVID-19 Florida employers told us a skilled workforce was the top priority for 2020. A high-quality workforce is Florida’s best long-term economic development strategy and is crucial to becoming the 10th largest economy by 2030. We need your help to understand your company’s evolving workforce needs and the impact the pandemic is having on your recruiting and training goals. For the first year ever, we will be presenting the results not only for Florida as a whole, but we will also be providing results by industry. If you wouldn’t mind, please take 5 minutes and complete the 2021 Workforce Survey for your industry. The results of the survey will be incorporated into the Florida Chamber Foundation’s 2021 Florida Workforce Needs Study.
Chamber Safety Conference to Show how Florida can Stay Safe, Healthy
Hosted by the Florida Chamber Safety Council (FCSC), Florida’s chapter of the National Safety Council, the Southeastern Leadership Conference on Safety, Health and Sustainability is scheduled for May 10-12 at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort in Orlando. For the in-person conference, the FCSC expects to attract business leaders in the environmental health and safety sector from across the Southeast. READ MORE>
100+ Local Chambers Join Florida Chamber’s COVID Liability Protections Coalition
The Florida Chamber announced that more than 100 local Chambers of Commerce have joined the Florida Chamber’s COVID Liability Protection coalition. READ MORE>
Florida Coalition, Legislation would help Exiting Military Members Find Jobs
The Florida Chamber of Commerce and Veterans Florida have launched a coalition to promote the SkillBridge program to servicemembers and employers in Florida. The SkillBridge program’s goal of facilitating servicemembers’ entry into the skilled labor market falls in line with the Florida Chamber of Commerce’s 2030 plan to be a top-five manufacturing state and a top-three state for technology jobs. READ MORE>
Thank you for your continued support as we work to unite Florida’s businesses for good. If there is anything you need from your dedicated Chamber Staff, or have questions at any time, I invite you to email me directly at email@example.com.
President & CEO
Engage with us at these Upcoming Florida Chamber Events
Florida Chamber Partner Spotlight
Economic Recovery Resource Links
• Guide to SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL)
• Guide to PPP Loan ForgivenessGuide to Coronavirus Paid Leave Programs
• CARES Act Healthcare Provider Relief Fund Guidance
• Guide to the Employee Retention Tax Credit
• Workers’ Compensation Insurance Guidance Related to COVID-19
• Department of Business & Professional Regulation Guidance
• Take the Business Damage Assessment Survey
• DOL Required Families First COVID-19 Employer Notice Poster
• Reemployment Assistance Service Center
• Reemployment Assistance Paper Application
• DOR Extends Corporate Income Tax Return and Payment Due Dates
• Payment Due Date for 2019 Tax Payments Delayed for 90 days
• Main Street Lending Program
• ‘The balloon might pop’: Fed’s corporate intervention spurs anxiety
• Helen Aguirre Ferré exiting Governor’s Office to be Executive Director of Florida GOP
• This is what internships look like in a remote world
• U.S. jobless claims held nearly steady at 1.3 million in July 11 week
• EU extends travel ban on Americans amid spike in US coronavirus cases
• Registration to vote in Florida’s primary closes Monday
• Senate GOP aims to funnel cases COVID liability cases to federal courts
Registration to vote in Florida’s primary closes Monday
The Aug. 18 ballots in most counties will include partisan primaries for congressional and legislative seats. Also, voters will cast ballots in local races, many of which are nonpartisan. Read more here.
Helen Aguirre Ferré exiting Governor’s Office to be Executive Director of Florida GOP
Read more here.
Publix to require customers to wear face coverings at all stores
The company said signs announcing the requirement will be posted at store entrances, and in-store announcements will be made. Young children and those with medical conditions will not be required to wear face coverings Read more here.