Florida SBDC Network Encourages Small Businesses to Apply for State, Federal Disaster Loans

Emergency Bridge Loan Program, U.S. SBA Disaster Loans Provide Capital for Businesses Physically, Economically Impacted by Hurricane Irma

Florida SBDC Network Headquarters (Pensacola, Fla.) – The Florida SBDC Network, the state’s designated principal provider of small business assistance, encourages small businesses impacted by Hurricane Irma to apply for state and federal disaster loans.

Alan Borden, owner of Debt Relief Legal Group, accepts an emergency bridge loan check from Eileen Rodriguez, Regional Director of the Florida SBDC at USF
Alan Borden, owner of Debt Relief Legal Group, accepts an emergency bridge loan check from Eileen Rodriguez, Regional Director of the Florida SBDC at USF

Administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, in collaboration with the Florida SBDC Network, and supported by Florida First Capital Finance Corporation (FFCFC), the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan is a short-term, interest-free 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, such as insurance proceeds or federal disaster assistance. Governor Rick Scott activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program on Thursday, September 14 and the first loan was distributed the following Monday.

Eligible businesses with two to 100 employees may apply for loans for up to 180-day terms. The State of Florida recently increased the maximum loan amount from $25,000 to $50,000.

The program provides a source of expedient cash flow to small businesses physically and/or economically impacted by the storm.

For Charles Wright, owner of Chokoloskee-based Everglades Area Tours, the bridge loan will provide capital to repair flood damage to vehicles, guides’ quarters on his property, and the marina and docks. Everglades Area Tours is a family-owned business specializing in educational-based eco experiences by kayak, foot, and boat in the Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and the 10,000 Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The loan will also provide payroll for his tour guides.

Similarly for Marnie Forestieri, owner of Little Explorer Academy—an Oviedo-based child care center specializing in early childhood STEM education—the bridge loan will help repair physical damage to her facility.

“Structures are very expensive,” Forestieri said. “Insurance doesn’t cover it. After deductibles, it was not worth making the claim. This loan will help us rebuild our playgrounds. The kids are going to be very, very happy.”

The bridge loan also serves as a source of working capital for business owners who sustained economic injury from the storm. Tampa-based Debt Relief Legal Group applied for a bridge loan to make up for lost revenue.

“Prior to and a week after the hurricane, clients cancelled because they had to evacuate or didn’t have time to come in,” said owner Alan Borden. “A loan like this will help us fill in those gaps until eventually those people who still have the same problems would be able to come back when they’re better on their feet and pay us.”

The deadline to apply for the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan is October 31, 2017, contingent on the availability of funds. For eligibility and application details, please click here.

While the bridge loan is a source of expedient funds, it is not designed to be the primary source of assistance to affected small businesses. As part of the eligibility, businesses must indicate pursuit of other sources, including insurance claims and loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Following the activation of a presidential disaster declaration, impacted businesses may apply for low-interest Business Physical and Economic Injury Disaster Loans through the SBA. Businesses and nonprofits may apply for up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged real estate, machinery, equipment, inventory, and other business assets. Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available even if the business did not suffer any physical damage. Interest rates are as low as 3.305 percent for businesses and 2.5 percent for nonprofits with terms up to 30 years. For eligibility and application details, please click here.

Additionally, several other federal and state loan and loan support programs are available for businesses that may not qualify for the emergency bridge loan or SBA loan programs.

As a principal responder in the state's Emergency Support Function for Business & Industry, the Florida SBDC Network is a key economic development organization that helps small businesses prepare, respond, and recover from disasters through its Business Continuation services.

As part of its service offering, Florida SBDC professionally certified consultants and disaster specialists are available to provide confidential, no-cost consulting to help affected businesses prepare disaster loan applications and with other post-disaster challenges.

When asked about Wright’s experience with Hurricane Irma and loan assistance received from the Florida SBDC at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), he said, “They were extremely reactive to our situation. I do not know how they could have been better.”

For more information about the network’s disaster recovery services, please click here.

The Florida SBDC Network has established a small business hotline for questions about the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan and SBA disaster loans. For questions about the disaster loan programs available and how the Florida SBDC can help, please contact (850) 898-3489 or Disaster@FloridaSBDC.org. The phone line will be answered during regular business hours; all voice mails and emails will be responded to within 24 hours.