In neighborhoods like Audubon Park, the streets are lined with locally owned stores whose owners were forced by the pandemic to rethink the way they do business.As more vaccines are administered however, hope is ramping up.Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer says Orlando’s small businesses need help.“Every one of them still continues to hurt because of COVID,” Dyer said.This week, Dyer’s Office approved ten businesses to receive rental assistance. That brings the total receiving help from the assistance program to 47.“The next time you have a want or need, think small first,” Dyer said.At the Owl’s Attic on Corrine Drive, shop owner Brittany Sulser says they’ve been able to take advantage of some programs offering assistance but much of it has to be paid back.“It put us in debt just to make it through and so we’ll be trsying to catch up for quite a while probably,” Sulser said.The latest data from the Orlando Economic Partnership shows across Orange, Osceola, Lake and Seminole counties by the end of 2020 there were about 24% fewer food, drink and retail businesses open than there were in January.Many of those who survived are now navigating reduced capacity and trying to emphasize online sales.At Park Avenue CD’s, Josiah Wess says there are only 12 people allowed inside at a time.“Masks have to be worn at all times. We have someone stationed at the front of the store that hands out hand sanitizer,” Wess said.Through it all, owners are grateful to those who are spending money at the local shops instead of bigger chains.“They’ve really shown up to make sure we’re going to be OK,” Sulser said.

In neighborhoods like Audubon Park, the streets are lined with locally owned stores whose owners were forced by the pandemic to rethink the way they do business.

As more vaccines are administered however, hope is ramping up.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer says Orlando’s small businesses need help.

“Every one of them still continues to hurt because of COVID,” Dyer said.

This week, Dyer’s Office approved ten businesses to receive rental assistance. That brings the total receiving help from the assistance program to 47.

“The next time you have a want or need, think small first,” Dyer said.

At the Owl’s Attic on Corrine Drive, shop owner Brittany Sulser says they’ve been able to take advantage of some programs offering assistance but much of it has to be paid back.

“It put us in debt just to make it through and so we’ll be trsying to catch up for quite a while probably,” Sulser said.

The latest data from the Orlando Economic Partnership shows across Orange, Osceola, Lake and Seminole counties by the end of 2020 there were about 24% fewer food, drink and retail businesses open than there were in January.

Many of those who survived are now navigating reduced capacity and trying to emphasize online sales.

At Park Avenue CD’s, Josiah Wess says there are only 12 people allowed inside at a time.

“Masks have to be worn at all times. We have someone stationed at the front of the store that hands out hand sanitizer,” Wess said.

Through it all, owners are grateful to those who are spending money at the local shops instead of bigger chains.

“They’ve really shown up to make sure we’re going to be OK,” Sulser said.