Orange County Move Kept 200 Workers Employed


CORRECTION: This article was updated Friday, March 12, 2021 to correct the spelling of Savi Gholar’s first name. It has been corrected below.

NOTE: This story is the third part of Rebound Ready, a three-part series looking at the pandemic’s economic and employment impact on the Orange County Convention Center and efforts to rebound.

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Savi Gholar was often the person at the other end of the line when people called Orange County for unemployment assistance and eviction protections.

What You Need To Know

  • Pandemic brought Orange County Convention Center trade shows to a halt 
  • About 200 county workers were reassigned to help residents with pandemic aid
  • Retention of jobs will help Convention Center when business picks up in fall

“It can get you depressed sometimes because there’s so much you want to do,” Gholar said.

But “sometimes, you just want someone to talk to. They want reassurance.”

Gholar was just a month into her new job as an administrative assistant at the Orange County Convention Center when the coronavirus pandemic gripped the country.

Both her son and daughter lost their jobs. But her job was saved — along with about 200 other Convention Center employees — when they were temporarily transferred to other county divisions in a move made by Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings.

Hanna Starner went from planning trade shows to assisting people with business loans and eviction grants.

“We were answering questions about applications, how to apply, what applications entailed, so helping residents in Orange County,” she said.

Demings said reassigning the county employees was the only way to avoid layoffs and to fill positions during a hiring freeze. He also ordered a hold on new raises and noncritical purchases.

“Every month since April, which was the worst month of our tourist development tax receipts, we’ve seen those tax receipts increase,” Demings said.

The county says the transfers helped save jobs — and taxpayer dollars.

“For months and months, 100% of their salaries and benefits have been covered by CARES Act funding. Not only is that a benefit for us, limiting our operating costs, but those people have been able to help so many residents in Orange County,” said Mark Tester, the executive director of the Orange County Convention Center.

He also thinks that decision will ultimately help trade shows rebound quicker.

“We’re going to be ready, hopefully with a highly engaged work force, thankful they’ve been able to keep their jobs during this tough time, and then move forward when events come back in earnest,” Tester said.


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