The Florida SBDC at the University of South Florida will facilitate the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program for small businesses in the Tampa Bay area, Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced Wednesday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis activated the loan program this week to assist businesses experiencing hardship as a result of the new coronavirus.
“Small businesses are the backbone of our community, and we understand that they are facing a challenging season ahead,” Castor said. “I encourage all of our small businesses to take advantage of this great relief option while we continue working to minimize the impact of COVID-19 on our community and our businesses.”
The SBDC at USF will accept applications for loans from businesses in Desoto, Hardee, Hernando, Highlands, Hillsborough, Manatee, Pasco, Pinellas, Polk and Sarasota counties.
“We understand the urgency surrounding the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program,” said Eileen Rodriguez, regional director of the Florida SBDC at USF. “We are here to help and will work with small business owners as quickly as possible, as we are experiencing a high volume of inquiries right now.”
To qualify, applicants must be for-profit, privately held small businesses that maintain a place of business in Florida. Businesses must also employ between two and 100 workers. Loans are interest-free for one year. Businesses can qualify for up to $50,000 in most instances. Applications will be accepted through May 8.
A Florida Politics analysis of job sectors in the state found that more the 1 million workers could be affected by the coronavirus outbreak as large events and even moderately sized gatherings shut down, restaurants limit businesses, bars and nightclubs shut down and people throughout the state stay home to heed recommendations of social distancing.
The economic slow down could spell major hardship for small businesses lacking the resources to absorb impacts from even a short disruption, let alone a prolonged crisis.
Florida SBDC Network business consultants, many of whom are Disaster Recovery Institute (DRI) Certified Business Continuity Professionals, are available to assist small businesses through the loan application process and with other COVID-19-related challenges at no-cost.
The Florida SBDC at USF is available to answer questions and assist small business owners in submitting applications. Loan decisions are made by an independent committee made up of economic development and finance professionals within the region.
The Florida Legislature and DeSantis earmarked $50 million for the program.
More information on the program is available on the group’s website and includes details on how to submit an application and a list of documentation required.