U.S. Representative Ross Spano visited local veteran-owned small businesses to learn what challenges they face during the COVID-19 epidemic.

U.S. Representative Ross Spano, a Republican for Florida’s 15th congressional district, spent time in Brandon, Plant City and Lakeland touring veteran-owned small businesses to spotlight the impact COVID-19 has had on their enterprises.

“Ensuring that veterans have the resources they need to succeed is one of my top priorities,” said Spano. “Visiting their small business in the district is a way for me to connect with and learn about the problems they are facing firsthand.”

The tour began at a rally at Fred’s Market in Plant City and then proceeded to Lakeland with stops at Xcellent Xteriors, Headley Law, Ring Roofing and Will Power Fitness Facility and ended with an after-action review and meet and greet at The Landing Bar & Grill, located at 4351 Lynx Paw Trl.

Bill Hellemn opened what would one day be named The Landing Bar & Grill in 2013 after retiring from 23 years of service in the Navy and another 12 years of service as a civilian contractor for the United States Special Operation Command (SOCOM).

While meeting with Spano at his business, Hellemn expressed gratitude for Spano taking the time to hear his concerns with how his business has been affected by ‘safer-at-home’ restrictions.

The Landing Bar & Grill shuttered its doors for six weeks while staff and customers sheltered in place to prevent transmission of the virus. While his business is now open and sales are picking up, his concerns relate to his inability to gain access to small business loans through the state and federal Small Business Administrations.

“They’ve been overwhelmed with the need for assistance,” said Hellemn, who has made multiple attempts over the last few months to contact the agencies, to no avail.

He was able to get a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan from PNC Bank, a program that was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Spano has used his position in Congress to advocate for veteran small business owners. As the only Florida Representative on the House Small Business Committee and a former small business owner, he introduced the Veteran GI Bill which would allow veterans to use their GI Bill benefits to start a business as well as the Boots to Business Bill.

For more information about Spano or his stance on other issues, visit www.rossspano.com.