Collier CARES funds to help people financially impacted by COVID-19

Reporter: Gina Tomlinson Writer: Drew Hill
Published: Updated:

Many restaurants are back open and so are many retail stores across the country, but that doesn’t mean small business owners have recovered financially from losses over the last few months due to coronavirus restrictions forcing them to close.

For many businesses, things changed overnight. That goes for Michelle Flocco, a bartender at The French in Naples.

“We were so slammed because it was right around St. Patrick’s Day, which is the busiest time of the year. Then, all of a sudden, it was like somebody took all the wind out of our sails and that was it,” Flocco said.

Mortgage and utility bills have been piling up for businesses like The French and others all across Collier County. The pandemic has changed people’s lives.

“You start to hit the panic button,” Flocco said, “and what am I going to do if this goes on for months?”

While no patrons were visiting The French during quarantine, the restaurant’s owners held a fundraiser to make sure employees could continue to pay their own bills. Flocco can’t thank them enough.

“They covered our health insurance when they were closed, so that was a huge help for me,” she said. “And then unemployment helped a lot.”

Even more help is on the way for businesses in Collier County through the Collier CARES program.

The online portal for Collier CARES opens Monday, Aug. 17 at 8 a.m.

If you have been financially impacted by the coronavirus, you may be eligible for up to $11,000 from the county to cover costs such as childcare, rent and utilities.

“We also have a call center that can be reached here in Collier County at 311 that has staff standing by to answer questions about any requirements with different allocations and walk people through the process,” said Sean Callahan, executive director of business operations for Collier County.

Callahan understands that many people throughout the county are hurting and could really use this financial assistance. “I think it would be a huge help to a lot of people,” he said.

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