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Hillsborough Moves To Protect Closed Small Businesses From Eviction

Closed, but hopefully not evicted
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Hillsborough County officials moved Monday to make sure small businesses that can't pay their rent during the COVID-19 pandemic won't get evicted.

Gov. Ron DeSantis last week decreed that apartment renters who have lost their livelihoods and can't make their monthly payments won't be thrown out of their homes. But what about the scores of small businesses that have been deemed "non-essential" and were forced to close?

Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandra Murman said she has been getting complaints from several such business owners.

"Some of these landlords are trying to evict their people that rent from them. They're trying to evict them. So I think we want to try to help them as much as we can," she told members of the Hillsborough Emergency Policy Group.

The group's members voted unanimously to send a letter to the governor to ask him whether commercial renters were part of his executive order last week.

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County Commission Chair Les Miller said he also plans to ask the governor to freeze apartment rents.  Miller said he's been getting calls from apartment dwellers who lost their jobs, but are facing rents that went up on April 1. That wasn't addressed in the governor's order, but he plans to ask the governor to request rents won't go up during the pandemic.

Also, Hillsborough County officials have put in a request for a mobile field hospital - just in case the number of COVID-19 cases becomes a problem for local hospitals.

The county put in a request over the weekend, says Tim Dudley, the county's emergency director -- but Florida authorities have not responded yet.

"Just as in other communities here in the state, they're taking a look at our current bed capacity and are monitioring where the greatest need is," Dudley told members of the Emergency Policy Group. "And we will continue to plan for any contingency that may arise in the event that there's a greater need for that particular resource in the state."

Field hospitals have been set up by the Florida Department of Health in several hard-hit areas, including Broward, Miami-Dade, and Jacksonville.

As of Monday morning, there were 372 cases confirmed in Hillsborough, said Dr. Douglas Holt, Hillsborough director for the Florida Department of Health. Of those, 30 are age 65 and up.

Holt said the number of cases in the county are doubling about every five days. There are about 30 new confirmed cases every day - up from about 15 a week ago.


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Steve Newborn is WUSF's assistant news director as well as a reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.