Miami Beach faces a "horrible" budget deficit as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the chairman of the City Commission's Finance Committee said Wednesday.

By Miami Diario Newsroom

Commissioner Ricky Arriola cited a $3.6 million weekly drop in city revenue during a special Commission meeting to consider relief for hospitality workers. Depending on how long the crisis continues, he said, "We are seeing a $30-40 million fiscal hole in our budget«. No amount of financial engineering is going to plug that hole. It's going to be really ugly."

The special meeting – the Commission's first telephone meeting in the city – was called to discuss a request from a nonprofit organization in partnership with the local hospitality union for $200.000 in financial and training assistance.

The request depended on other governments also made a contribution of 2 million dollars, most of which would have provided $400 per month to the 1.000 most affected people for four months.

Although UNITE HERE Local 355 leader Wendi Walsh assured commissioners that non-union members would also be served, they cited pending relief from the federal government as a better response to workers' cash needs. The Commission chose to dedicate some of the city's staff to providing assistance to all workers who need help navigating the various supports available to them, not just those in the hospitality industry.

However, the meeting was a first look at the impact the crisis is having at all levels, from workers to business owners to local governments.

"As CFO, I'm not expecting that," Arriola said of the impending budget debates. "Cuts. Rest. All kinds of nasty stuff… horrible stuff that we're going to have to cut out. I don't want to spend any money until we have a complete financial picture," he said in explaining his "no" vote on the $200.000 request.

Arriola said that the hospitality industry is "the first industry that we need to target." Recovery will take time, he said, noting that the hospitality industry has the "longest wait take the longest to fill up." People have to make travel plans. People are going to have less money to spend. Companies are going to be slow to spend. At some point in the future, I'm going to be very interested in helping the hospitality industry… There are going to be a lot of people who need the help.”

“We are very dependent on our tourism industry,” Commissioner Micky Steinberg said. “Zika, red tides, hurricanes, now this virus. It really shows us our vulnerability."

Making his recommendation to redirect city staff toward helping displaced workers across industries, City Manager Jimmy Morales said, “It's one thing for [the shutdown] to continue for a few weeks. We have reservations. If it goes on for several months, obviously our capacity will be very, very diminished.”

Source: re miami beach

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