TAMPA, Fla. (April 30, 2020) – Ybor City’s historic district has been a landmark area of the City of Tampa for over 135 years and is a community known for its historic architecture, history, Cuban cigars, and Cuban sandwiches. Through Ybor City’s storied history, it has withstood several historic crises, all while maintaining a supportive community.
With a heavy concentration of many small businesses in Ybor City being hospitality-related, COVID-19 has unfortunately caused severe economic damage. As a result and to continue to support impacted small business and workers in Ybor City through the COVID-19 pandemic and its recovery, the Ybor City Development Corporation (YCDC), which coordinates improvements, development and economic revitalization in the district, wanted to hear from local business owners and workers about their experience with COVID-19.
HCP Associates, YCDC’s research, marketing and communications firm, was tasked with establishing a research study where community members could share the challenges they were experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The main objective of the study was to develop an understanding of the real-life impacts of local businesses and workers, and assess what support they need.
Over half of the local businesses surveyed stated that they have had to shut their doors as a result of the pandemic. While some businesses remain open, most have been forced to reduce hours, work from home, furlough employees, and even lay off employees.
The study revealed the most burdensome expense for both workers and businesses owners in Ybor City is rent/mortgage, mirroring the financial burdens for individuals across the nation. A similar sentiment was illustrated from a nationwide survey conducted by Gallup Research stating that the current number one fear of Americans is not being able to pay rent, mortgage, or other housing costs.
Out of the workers surveyed, nearly half of them work in hospitality, one of the hardest-hit industries as a result of COVID-19. And in a positive light, 74% percent were neither laid off nor furloughed.
Although rent and mortgages were considered the greatest concern, healthcare premiums and the cost of care was another determining factor. Many small businesses in the hospitality sector may not offer health insurance coverage, which leaves the burden on the employees. Health insurance premiums are typically the second highest expense for small businesses and employees.
Workers and business owners alike face significant challenges and admit to having to adapt to different working and business conditions.
For most of the world, this is a time of extreme uncertainty. Despite the challenges we face today, several opportunities arise for communities to connect and support one another. This is a characteristic that Ybor City has maintained for decades. By creating a community engagement survey platform to further capitalize on the strength of the city, the community is directly brought into the conversation and local businesses and workers can speak to their concerns and personal experiences. Insights from the survey allows YCDC to properly understand what aid could be provided and make informed decisions to support the community.