Letter to the Editor — Reopening Lee County

Letter to the Editor -- Reopening Lee County

Please see the letter (below) on the reopening Lee County that was submitted to the Lee County Commissioners on 4/21/2020. It covers areas of interest to all Cape residents.


Letter to the Editor -- Reopening Lee County

As the country incrementally begins to pivot toward a phased-step, conditioned-based reopening process, unprecedented levels of uncertainty can be expected. Many of the assumptions confidently made just a few months ago on future matters merit reconsideration. This applies universally across society and at all levels including personal, business and government.

With personal responsibility to exercise social distancing the primary mitigating measure, and government leadership providing direction on any easing of related guidelines based on medical expert advice, it is likely significant economic recovery will be more gradual. Experts indicate plasma antibody harvesting and several drug treatment regimens may (hopefully) impact recovery timing as projected vaccine development could be a year away. Recovery will still take considerable time.

Safe reopening of the economy as currently reported by our medical experts will include science-based data & metric analysis, statistically adequate testing levels, and informed medical expert direction on contagion curve flattening and/or slope decline with contact tracing and quarantine measures as needed. Informed decisions on timing and specific measures will be better made at more granular levels and by those closest to understanding local conditions and in a manner that coordinates and links them to adjacent grouped locals. 

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The country is a mosaic of states, and states are a mosaic of counties and various grouped population regions of common characteristics. Lee County actions are best done in a manner that promotes local city coordination while not infringing upon local government self-determination.

At the local level, as we continue to follow the expert guidelines, it is also important that we do all that we can to help our small businesses through this difficult time. 

According to JP Morgan Chase, 

  • Over 99 percent of America’s 28.7 million firms are small businesses 
  • The vast majority (88 percent) of employer firms have fewer than 20 employees
  • Nearly 40 percent of all enterprises have under $100k in revenue
  • 20 percent of small businesses are employer businesses while 80 percent are non-employer businesses

In addition, small businesses in the U.S. employ 57 million people (StartBlox, 2018). 

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In the Cape, the role of small business represents an even greater portion of the economy relative to our Nation’s metrics.  The Cape’s current economy is “small business.” Real estate, hospitality, entertainment, health care services, crafts and trades, etc….these are the commercial engines of Cape Coral. As goes their health and vitality, so goes that of the Cape.  To complicate conditions further, this challenge is upon us in peak season which only exacerbates cash flow deficit needs over the year.

Cape Coral business owners and their staffs have been nothing short of stellar in their adaptation of social distancing, hygienic and other related safety measures, and innovations to serve the community and retain their employees.  They have always risen to support our community, various causes, and needs, including first responders, health care workers, teachers, veterans, etc. 

The Cape’s collective business community deserves our support to the extent that each of us can do. We need to help ensure all of our community can be sustained during this time and emerge, perhaps a bit the worse for wear, “good to go” on the other side.  It is the right thing to do and in everyone’s best interests to do it.

The recent monetary policy actions by the Federal Reserve were directed at pumping liquidity into the system (interest rate reduction and balance sheet expansion.) The Fed is doing what is necessary to avoid the credit lock-up that was experienced in 2008 and what is essential to support the economy at the macro level.  

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Additionally, the recently passed CARES legislation is a great lifeline. With a major component to assist in health care system support, to sustain families, to help critically affected large businesses and what should be a major support to small businesses, it will be a huge help in relieving some of the immediate hardship. The supplemental funding anticipated later this week which will augment PPP, testing implementation and some public and private hospital systems will extend the lifeline and aid in expanded testing.

However, longer-term sustainability will only occur with a return to as near a normal economy and market dynamics as may be considered safely possible.  

Long term economic sustainability for Cape Coral, and for Lee County overall, ultimately results from actions and choices we make locally. Our individual and collective support of local businesses is at the heart of these choices. The first step we can take today toward protecting and/or expanding Lee County and the Cape’s future economy is to protect and ensure the viability and sustainability of our current businesses.  

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Most small businesses operate with cash reserves better measured in weeks rather than months to cover unexpected outages and/or reduced business periods.  Small business entrepreneurship is ingenious and creative as demonstrated in their adaptations accomplished in recent weeks.  

However, except for a few specialized business niches, many will not be able to continue much longer under the current restricted levels of operation.  Further, even those businesses who can endure will face a very uncertain market until such a time that the general public regains confidence and begins to publicly interact.

To be clear, life and public safety are primary concerns. Everyone needs to follow what our experts and leaders consider responsible behaviors.  However, reopening our economy and protecting public health and safety are not mutually exclusive actions. Testing and data availability are increasing daily, and each day the basis for decisions on public safety measures becomes better informed.  There are also consequences in delaying reopening the economy which are disruptive to society and health-related matters.  They, too, require consideration in any reopening determination.

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As the county receives and interprets the applicability of our Governor’s directives for the state, we hope they do so in a manner that facilitates a coordinated, jurisdictional approach, but does not add or further impede local jurisdictions in the self-determining safe reopening of their respective economies.  Such informed, safe reopening decisions by definition would be based on informed analysis including medical expert guidance at the county level.   

No one could have foreseen the challenge COVID 19 has placed upon us all, but we all can look to the future and work together to help make it prosperous with a sustainable and uplifting economy. 

Respectfully,  Joe Kilraine, resident of Cape Coral, Candidate for City Council District 3

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