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Florida has awarded $49 million in bridge loans to more than 1,000 small businesses

But more than 38,000 businesses applied for the emergency loans.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Miami Beach Convention Center to discuss the U.S. Army Corps' building of a coronavirus field hospital inside the facility on April 8.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Miami Beach Convention Center to discuss the U.S. Army Corps' building of a coronavirus field hospital inside the facility on April 8. [ AL DIAZ | adiaz@miamiherald.com ]
Published Apr. 14, 2020
Updated Apr. 14, 2020

Florida has given away all of its emergency loans to more than 1,000 small businesses, but roughly 37,000 others who applied for the relief program will lose out.

The 1-year, $50,000 interest-free loans, known as bridge loans, are typically issued during hurricanes. Gov. Ron DeSantis activated the $50 million program to help companies survive the coronavirus pandemic.

The Department of Economic Opportunity, which manages the loans, announced the giveaways on Saturday. The Tampa Bay Times has asked for the names of the businesses, but the state has not responded to the request.

“We appreciate Governor DeSantis’ steadfast commitment to helping small businesses sustain the economic impacts created by COVID-19,” the department’s executive director, Ken Lawson, said in a statement. “We are proud to stand with Florida businesses by providing them with additional resources during these challenging times."

The department said it received more than 38,000 applications.

The abrupt closure of the program prompted one Orlando lawmaker to ask DeSantis to expand it by another $450 million. The money would come from the $543 million DeSantis is preparing to refund to the state’s top 1 percent of businesses as part of the 2017 federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

“Is this a joke?” Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said in a statement Tuesday. “The state’s largest corporations are set to benefit from a corporate tax refund of $543 million. We don’t even know which corporations will benefit from this tax refund, and if they even need relief right now.”

A request for comment from DeSantis and the department was not immediately returned Tuesday.

The department is directing businesses to apply for other state and federal programs. Details about those programs can be found online at www.FloridaJobs.org/COVID-19.

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