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State activates loan program for Tampa Bay small businesses

The state of Florida is committing up to $10 million to help small businesses around Tampa Bay recover from the deluge of rain and flooding that pounded the region earlier this month.

Gov. Rick Scott said on Monday that the state was activating an emergency loan program traditionally used after hurricanes to help business with up to 100 employees. The Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program can provide up to $25,000 in interest free loans for up to 180 days to help businesses keep a healthy cash flow while paying for weather-induced damage or waiting for insurance claims to be processed.

Businesses in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties are all eligible to apply for the loans. Additionally Taylor and Dixie counties further north are eligible.

"Small businesses are the foundation of our economy and we must ensure all affected can get back to work as soon as possible," Scott said.

During a 10-day stretch that ended Aug. 3, up to 20 inches of rain fell on some parts of the region, swelling rivers, closing roadways and damaging homes and businesses. Scott declared a state of emergency Aug. 6 in the five counties where the loans will be available.

To be eligible for loans ranging from $1,000 to $25,000, a business must have been established prior to Aug. 6 and demonstrate damage as a result of the flooding.

The loan program, in place since Hurricane Andrew devastated South Florida in 1992, has been typically used after hurricanes and tropical storms. Since Hurricane Andrew, the fund was activated more than eight times because of hurricanes or other named storms.

To complete an application, or for more information on the program, visit floridadisasterloan.org. For questions, contact the Florida Small Business Development Center Network State Office toll-free at (866) 737-7232.

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