OKEECHOBEE – Stafford Salon owner Angie Griffin put it bluntly when she spoke at the Okeechobee County Commission April 30 meeting. “This is crap,” she said.
“I’m here because of the governor’s report,” said Ms. Griffin. “I know you guys have to follow the governor’s orders,” she said. “This is crap. I have been closed for a month. We closed in the busiest month of the year, which is kind of a double whammy. We were slow two weeks prior to that because of this corona virus.
“We have a really good reopening plan,” she continued. “I can guarantee you my reopening plan is better than the check out plan they have at Walmart.
“I have been a hairdresser for 25 years,” she said. “This is ridiculous, me not being able to work for a month and a half.
“I haven’t seen a stimulus check. The $1,200 is not going to pay my utility bills,” she told the commissioners.
“I don’t want a hand out. I want to work,” she said. Ms. Griffin said her utility bills and mortgage are due.
“I just want to express my opinion that I think the whole thing is crap,” she said.
Commission Chairman Terry Burroughs said he has asked representatives of the chamber of commerce and the economic council to reach out to Ms. Griffin.
Chairman Burroughs said he wrote “an epistle” to the governor last night about the problems faced in the rural counties.
“In rural counties in rural Florida, small businesses maintain 80% of the employment,” he said. When you take away ability for small businesses to survive, you are taking away the income from majority of workers in the county, he continued.
“I have encouraged people to write to the governor themselves, not just spout on Facebook,” said the chairman.
“It may be time to stand up for Okeechobee,” said Commissioner David Hazellief.
“Eight years ago, 10 years ago this country went through four pandemics and we didn’t do this, and we survived,” said Commissioner Bryant Culpepper. “It’s very frustrating for an elected body to sit up here and watch our businesses dwindle on the vine.”
After weeks of virtual meetings, the commissioners met in person on Thursday, with everyone in the meeting room maintaining the required six feet of social distancing.
• Send letters to the governor at:
Office of Governor Ron DeSantis
State of Florida
• Call the governor’s office at 850-717-9337.
• To email the governor, go online to www.flgov.com/contact-governor and click on “email Governor DeSantis.”
In an April 28 letter to the governor, Chairman Burroughs wrote:
"First of all thank you for the leadership you have provided during the pandemic. During our Commission meeting yesterday, I was requested as the Chairman to write this email on behalf of the Okeechobee Board of County Commissioners regarding the plans for re-opening Florida. I also serve as the Vice Chairman of the Small County Coalition representing 29 fiscally constrained rural counties in the State. This request comes from Okeechobee County, but it applies to all rural counties in the State.
"I participated on your task force meeting last Friday by giving a report on small business impacts in rural Florida and I fully understand the magnitude of the problem to re-opening up the economy. However, our rural communities are suffering greatly with the loss of employment due to the closures of our small business environment. Rural counties as a whole have a lesser number of positive cases than our urban counterparts and have been taking your direction in stride to prevent further cases from occurring. As of today as represented on Florida’s COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard, the 29 fiscally constrained counties account for 839 total cases in the State. Our businesses have been given guidelines from the Florida Department of Health outlining what needs to be accomplished when opening their business (social distancing, sanitation, etc.) and are ready to conform.
"With that said, on behalf of the Okeechobee Board of County Commissioners and the rural counties in the State, we are appealing to you to allow us to begin opening our businesses on May 1, 2020 to keep from losing a majority of our businesses to closure."