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Coronavirus: How small businesses in Florida can apply for aid

Florida has $50 million for interest-free loans to small businesses. The U.S. Small Business Administration offers loans of up to $2 million.

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With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down business statewide, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has made $50 million available to small businesses in the state hurt by the disaster.

“This amount may be expanded at a later time based on demand and necessity,” DeSantis said. “But this will be available for small businesses in all counties within the state from two to 100 employees.”

That’s because efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus by reducing social interaction in public and commercial spaces will harm “small businesses throughout our state,” DeSantis said.

“The problem is, if you’re in some of these industries that are really getting hit, you have a cash-flow issue, particularly if you have tight margins,” he said. “This is a way to kind of keep people afloat, and then when we get on the other side of this, hopefully (we) can be able to get back to business as usual.”

Related: Coronavirus: Which stores are still open and which are closed in the Tampa Bay area?

The stakes are high. An estimated 25 percent of businesses don’t open again after a major disaster, according to Institute for Business and Home Safety data cited by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Here are some details of the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program:

Who can apply? For-profit, privately held small businesses with two to 100 employees that maintain a place of business in Florida, were established before March 9, 2020 and suffered economic injury as a result of the disaster. The need for the loan and use of the money must be directly related to the economic injury caused by the disaster.

How much is available? Up to $50,000 per eligible small business. Only one loan will be made per eligible business. Loans of up to $100,000 are possible in special cases as warranted by the need of the eligible small business.

What are the terms? The loans will be for one year with no interest. If not repaid within a year, the interest rate on the unpaid balance will rise to 12 percent per year until the loan is paid in full. Borrowers who default on the loans will be subject to normal commercial collection processes. If a business has received a previous loan from the state emergency bridge loan program, that loan must have been paid in full before the business can apply for a coronavirus-related loan.

What’s the deadline? May 8, depending on the availability of funds.

How do I get started? Get information at floridadisasterloan.org/eligibility-and-loan-process/. Apply online at floridasbdc.org/disaster/ebl/. Businesses also can download an application at floridasbdc.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/20200316-COVID-19-Florida-Emergency-Bridge-Loan-Application3.pdf, complete it and mail it with the required supporting documentation to:

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity

C/O Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan

107 E Madison Street, MSC-160

Tallahassee FL 32399-4120

Are any businesses not eligible? Yes. Ineligible businesses include those that make more than one-third of their gross annual revenue from legal gambling, as well as any businesses engaged in any illegal activity, businesses that present live performances of an “indecent sexual nature” or derive more than 2.5 percent of their gross revenue by selling products or services that display an indecent sexual nature, businesses that have a primary purpose of facilitating polyamorous relationships, massage parlors, hot tub facilities and escort services.

Where can I get more information? Check online at SBDCTampaBay.com/coronavirus, call the Department of Economic Opportunity toll-free at 833-832-4494 or email FloridaBusinsesLoanFund@deo.myflorida.com.

In Tampa, City Hall has activated a Tampa Recovery Hotline at 1 (833) 872-4636 (TPA INFO). There, businesses can get information from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays on the state’s small business bridge loan program, as well about other local, state and federal coronavirus-related resources as they become available. For text alerts from the city about business resources in Tampa, text TAMPABIZ to 888-777.

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In addition to the state program, the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans to provide working capital for Florida small businesses that are being substantially injured by the coronavirus pandemic.

Loans of up to $2 million are available to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses for small businesses statewide that have been impacted since Jan. 31, as well as for private non-profit organizations of any size, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises. The deadline to apply is Dec. 18.

“We will be swift in our efforts to help these small businesses recover from the financial impacts of the coronavirus,” Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza said in announcing the loans. “These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact."

The federal economic injury disaster loans have interest rates of 3.75 percent for small businesses and 2.75 percent for nonprofit organizations. Repayment plans of up to 30 years are available.

You can apply online, get disaster assistance information and download applications at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. For more information, call the Small Business Administration’s customer service center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing can call (800) 877-8339. Mail completed applications to the U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus guide

Q&A: The latest and all your questions answered.

EVENT CANCELLATIONS: Get the latest updates on events planned in the Tampa Bay area in the coming weeks.

PROTECT YOURSELF: Household cleaners can kill the virus on most surfaces, including your phone screen.

BE PREPARED: Guidelines for essentials to keep in your home should you have to stay inside.

STOCK UP YOUR PANTRY: Foods that should always be in your kitchen, for emergencies and everyday life.

FACE MASKS: They offer some protection, but studies debate their effectiveness.

WORKPLACE RISK: A list of five things employers could be doing to help curb the spread of the disease.

READER BEWARE: Look out for bad information as false claims are spreading online.

OTHER CORONAVIRUS WEBSITES:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Florida Department of Health

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