■ STAFF REPORT
Following the devastating impact of the Lake Okeechobee algal bloom and red tide, the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network, Florida’s principal provider of small business assistance, stands ready to help small businesses who experienced physical and/or economic injury as a result of these events.
On Monday, Governor Rick Scott activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program. The program, administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) in partnership with Florida First Capital Finance Corporation and the Florida SBDC Network, is a short-term, working capital loan intended to help small businesses “bridge the gap” between the time of a declared disaster and when the business has secured long-term recovery resources. The loan is offered at zero interest if paid by maturity.
Small businesses affected by blue-green algae in Glades, Hendry, Lee, Martin, Okeechobee, Palm Beach, and St. Lucie counties may apply for assistance through September 7, 2018.
Small businesses affected by the red tide in Charlotte, Collier, Hillsborough, Lee, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties may apply for assistance through October 12, 2018.
Eligible small businesses with two to 100 employees may apply for loans up to $50,000. To be eligible, applicants must be for-profit, privately held small businesses who maintain a place of business in the state. Qualified small businesses must have been established prior to July 9, 2018 for Lake Okeechobee algal bloom assistance and August 13, 2018 for red tide assistance and must have suffered physical and/or economic injury from these events.
As part of the loan process, small businesses must submit their application and required documents to their local Florida SBDC. Florida SBDC professionally certified consultants and disaster specialists are available to provide confidential, no-cost consulting to help affected businesses complete their application and with other post-disaster challenges.
“Research shows that access to capital immediately following and in the weeks, months, and years following a disaster influences a small business’ ability to survive,” said Michael W. Myhre, CEO of the Florida SBDC. “The bridge loan program provides a vital source of capital that affected businesses need to make payroll, repairs, and other immediate needs. We’re committed to helping small businesses through the process so they are able to recover as quickly as possible.”
The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program was first activated following Hurricane Andrew. It has been activated 22 additional times following disasters and has helped more than 3,550 small businesses statewide receive more than $97.9 million in assistance, including $34.8 million following Hurricane Irma.
For more information, and to complete an application, visit FloridaDisasterLoan.org.
For questions about the loan program and how the Florida SBDC can help, please contact the Florida SBDC nearest you. The Florida SBDC Network has also established a business disaster hotline for questions at (850) 898-3479 or Disaster@FloridaSBDC.org.