Small businesses prepare to get back to work safely with masks, hand sanitizer from Orange County

County loosens criteria for small businesses to qualify for PPE

Masks, hand sanitizer handed out to Orange County small businesses
Masks, hand sanitizer handed out to Orange County small businesses

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Workers began handing out personal protective equipment to Orange County small business owners on Monday as part of an effort to help small businesses meet Florida’s guidelines for reopening.

Orange County officials said one million masks and 200,000 bottles of hand sanitizer are available to be distributed to as many as 20,000 small businesses throughout the county.

"We owe it to our citizens to make sure that we have appropriate sanitary measures in place to stop this virus." Mayor Jerry Demings said.

On Monday, several dozen vehicles lined up outside Orange Technical College, which is one of six locations where small business owners can schedule a date and time for the drive-thru pickup.

Jackie Page, who owns a wholesale furniture and fabric showroom in downtown Orlando, said PPE has been difficult for her to find since she made the decision to reopen her business.

"It's just not available, and so we're very excited that we can just come and pick it up here," she said.

PPE kits with 200 masks and 40 bottles of hand sanitizer were distributed to each vehicle.

"We've got people coming in and we want to make sure they're safe and the employees are safe and so we're very grateful Orange County is doing this," Page said.

Initially, for a business to qualify, it had to be within Orange County and have between three and 40 employees. Demings announced during a news conference Monday afternoon that the qualifications had been changed to allow the self-employed and businesses with one to 44 part-time or full-time employees to qualify.

"We're just trying to get (supplies) to those that don't have the means or have not been able to secure the PPE that they need," Demings said.

According to county officials, about 2,000 business owners pre-registered before distribution on Monday.

In order for small businesses to qualify, they must register by completing an Interest Form at www.ocfl.net/PPE to get a pick-up appointment. Eligible businesses include for-profit and nonprofit organizations but must be incorporated with the majority of their operations in Orange County.

Demings said county leaders expect to get another shipment of PPE in this week. If supply allows, the mayor said the criteria for small businesses to qualify for the equipment may be loosened. He also said county leaders are exploring the idea of using fire rescue departments to get the protective equipment directly into the hands of community members to help stop the spread of COVID-19 while there’s still no vaccine.

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About the Author:

Mark Lehman became a News 6 reporter in July 2014, but he's been a Central Florida journalist and part of the News 6 team for much longer. While most people are fast asleep in their bed, Mark starts his day overnight by searching for news on the streets of Central Florida.