BROWARD COUNTY, FL – At a special County Commission workshop on Tuesday, March 24, County Administrator Bertha Henry and directors of the County’s economic engines, transportation and human services agencies shared information about the local financial and social service impacts of COVID-19.
Broward’s Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL)
Airline traffic is significantly down, and the airport is now operating at a 30-35 percent capacity. Reductions in service are expected to continue into April. The number of international destinations has dropped from 55 to 13. The remaining destinations are primarily to the Caribbean. Sixty-six of 99 concession locations in the terminals have closed.
Aviation Director Mark Gale said that the economic stimulus packages now being considered by Congress should help both the airline industry and airports across the country. Expenditures are being reduced in the most prudent ways possible. Broward County is creating programs to help its 20,000+ airport workers, and vendors, by offering small business assistance and looking at opportunities for reducing rent.
Broward County’s Port Everglades
The last passenger ship to come into Port Everglades was March 20. Due to the temporary slowdown of the cruise industry, the number of ships out of the Port has decreased by 66 sailings so far this season. 664 cruise ships were anticipated this season. The ferry to the Bahamas continues, but at a reduced level.
Cargo operations are strong with perishable food distribution up for the year to date. With reduced airline traffic, however, jet fuel revenues are starting to decline. Construction projects at the Port are continuing as planned. Petroleum volumes are still strong.
Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau (GFLCVB)
Broward hotel occupancy rates since March 15 have been between 10 and 14 percent. To date, Broward has experienced an $8.5 million loss in room revenue with an overall economic impact of $61.7 million. One major hotel has furloughed 80 percent of its staff.
With the anticipated slowing of the tourism industry, the GFLCVB is looking ahead to its summer and fall campaigns. A Virtual Vacation option showcasing the best of what Broward has to offer is being developed to get potential visitors excited about a future visit here. A planned summer marketing campaign to the drive market will focus on “Lauderdeals,” expanding such successful signature celebrations as “Spa-tember” and “Restaurant Month.”
Broward County Transportation (BCT)
BCT and Paratransit services (TOPS) are experiencing declines in ridership. Beginning March 28, BCT will operate on a Saturday schedule, Monday through Saturday. Sunday schedules continue with no change. Adjustments have been made in boarding procedures to encourage social distancing between riders and drivers. Customers, except for those who use the wheelchair ramp at the front door of the bus, will enter and exit the bus only via the rear doors. Also, bus fares have been suspended.
Broward County Human Services County Commissioners expressed concern about those in our community who are most vulnerable in this type of crisis, such as the elderly and those who may have suddenly lost self-sufficiency, or are on the verge of losing self-sufficiency.
Human Services agencies are working with Feeding South Florida to get meals to those who are experiencing food insecurity. Welfare visits to elderly residents are switching to phone calls, and ongoing training required for personnel is being conducted via SKYPE and teleconferencing. Counseling services are being provided by virtual means.
The Homeless Initiative Partnership (HIP) is working closely with the Homeless Continuum of Care shelter providers, day respite and meal program providers.
Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO)
Sheriff Gregory Tony updated the County Commission on BSO activities, and steps being taken to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among law enforcement first responders.
Deputies are engaged in educating business owners on the requirements of County Administrator Bertha Henry’s recent Emergency Order to close all non-essential businesses.
Evictions have essentially stopped, and deputies are reducing their physical presence at court appearances.
County Administrator’s Report
County Administrator Bertha Henry reported that the County is continuing to provide the essential services that our community relies on, and providing alternative means of accessing those services whenever possible, to reduce foot traffic in county buildings. Further, despite every County employee’s role as a first responder in an emergency, approximately 1,200 employees whose work responsibilities are conducive to working from home, have been deemed eligible to telework and/or are being evaluated for telework. Due to the essential and sensitive nature of many of the County’s services, not all employees are eligible for telework. Requests for telework are evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The County is also being very liberal with its leave policies, to ensure that employees who wish to use accumulated annual or sick leave are permitted to do so.
Watch the workshop in its entirety here.