How the Florida SBDC Can Help Your Small Business Recover from Hurricane Irma

In October 2016, Jacksonville-based Chowder Ted's sustained devastating damage to their restaurant. The Florida SBDC helped them secure a bridge loan to rebuild and reopen.

As the flood waters recede from Hurricane Irma and Floridians across the state continue efforts to rebuild their homes and lives, many are left with this question: "Where is the help to rebuild my small business?"

State designated as Florida's principal provider of small business assistance, the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network stands ready to help impacted small businesses apply for disaster loans and with other post-disaster challenges.

How can the Florida SBDC help my small business recover?

Thousands of small businesses across Florida sustained economic injury or physical damage as a result of Hurricane Irma. At the state and federal level, a number of disaster loan programs have been made available to help. Florida SBDC consultants can assist you in understanding eligibility information, applying for these loans, ensuring your application is complete, and by answering any questions you may have.

Best of all: our assistance is offered at no-cost thanks to funding made possible by our stakeholders.

On Monday, the Florida SBDC announced the closing of its first Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan. The loan of $25,000 was presented to St. Augustine-based Viola's Pizza Pasta & Seafood Restaurant. Viola’s Pizza Pasta & Seafood is a family-owned restaurant specializing in New York-style pizza, fresh seafood, and authentic, made-from-scratch Italian food. The restaurant sustained devastating damage to their dining room floor due to flooding and total loss of their food inventory due to Hurricane Irma.

With help from Marge Cirillo, certified professional business consultant and disaster recovery specialist for the Florida SBDC at the University of North Florida (UNF), the Viola’s were able to secure a bridge loan to replace their floor, order new food inventory, and retain their employees.

“As soon as Irma hit, we called Marge with the Florida SBDC at UNF,” added the Viola’s. “The process was seamless.”

As part of the Florida SBDC's service offering, the network also has deployed its Mobile Assistance Centers (MACs)—two 38-foot RVs equipped with laptops, printers, Internet capabilities, and more—into affected communities for impacted businesses to receive on-site assistance. This week, the network has provided on-site assistance via its MACs to small businesses in Northeast and Southwest Florida. The network is working with state and federal officials to determine future deployments.

What disaster loan programs are available for my small business?

At the state level, the Governor has activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan. The bridge loan is a short-term, interest-free loan designed to help businesses "bridge the gap" between the time of impact until other resources are available, such as federal assistance or insurance proceeds. To learn more about the Emergency Bridge Loan, please click here.

At the federal level, impacted businesses may apply for low-interest loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration. There are two types of loans available: the business physical disaster loan and the economic injury disaster loan. Business physical loans are for eligible businesses to help replace or restore damaged property. The economic injury loan can help you meet necessary financial obligations that your business otherwise could have met had the disaster not occured. To learn more, please click here.

For businesses that may not qualify for one of the above-mentioned programs, several other federal and state loan and loan support programs are available that may improve their ability to obtain loan approval and access credit. For more information on these programs, please click here.

Who should I contact for help?

We are saddened to see and hear the stories of damage and loss that small businesses across the state have suffered. The Florida SBDC Network stands ready to help your small business recover. Please contact your local Florida SBDC office, call (850) 898-3489 or email

"Research shows that 40 percent of small businesses do not recover following a major disaster. Our goal is to help our state's small businesses quickly access the financial and intellectual resources they need to rebuild," said Michael Myhre, CEO and Network State Director of the Florida SBDC.