Gov. Rick Scott said Monday he has opened up an emergency loan mechanism called the Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program to make state funding available for businesses affected by recent flooding across the Tampa Bay region.
“I saw firsthand the devastating flood damage in the Tampa Bay area communities earlier this month, and we will continue to take every possible measure to ensure that small businesses and families can quickly recover,” Scott said in a news release. “Small business are the foundation of our economy and we must ensure all affected can get back to work as soon as possible.”
The program — administered by the Department of Economic Opportunity, created by Scott in 2011 — will provide short-term, interest-free loans to eligible small businesses in certain counties to aid in re-establishing businesses during the interim period while the eligibility for other types of assistance and insurance claims are determined.
The counties where businesses can apply for help from the state are Hillsborough, Pasco, and Pinellas counties, which were ravaged by heavy rain this month, as well as Dixie and Taylor counties, also damaged by the regional downpours.
Department of Emergency Management Director Bryan W. Koon said the move was necessary to maintaining normalcy in Tampa Bay area business community.
Small businesses are “an integral part of the community’s identity and cultural landscape, and restoring neighborhood landmarks and gathering places also helps to restore normalcy for the affected families who are moving forward and re-establishing their lives,” Koon said Monday.
DEO director Jesse Pannucio agreed.
“In the wake of the recent flooding in West Central Florida, DEO visited and surveyed affected businesses, and we are committed to helping them recover,” Pannucio said of the move in a news release. “It is imperative that affected businesses have the resources they need to recover.”
The governor has made about $10 million from the state’s General Revenue fund available for the program, of which $5 million will be made available immediately.