State awards multiple emergency relief loans to some businesses, most get nothing

America Dollars
Big payouts went to a select few while most others got nothing.

Before the state’s Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program ran out of money earlier this week some business owners managed to get five and even 10 emergency loans, but only 815 people got anything while 37,000 others got nothing.

A Florida Politics review of the newly-released list of approved bridge loans from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity finds former NFL star Angelo Crowell of Tampa netted 10 loans totaling $500,000 to keep his Jersey Mikes sub shops and other businesses open, while John Burr of Brevard County was awarded nine loans totaling $410,000 for his Space Coast restaurants, including a chain of Long Doggers restaurants.

They were not alone.

Orlando restauranteur John Rivers got four loans somehow totaling $400,000 for his 4Rivers and The Coop restaurants in Central Florida. Leticia Ramos Pollock of Miami received six loans totaling $400,000 for her Panther Coffee shops. At least 13 other business owners were awarded at least four loans apiece, all of them receiving at least $100,000 in loans from the state’s Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program.

Yet according to the Florida SBDC Network, which consulted on the program, 37,000 other small business applicants seeking emergency relief help from the state program got nothing before the allocated $50 million ran out.

Florida’s Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program was announced in mid-March to help struggling firms get through the coronavirus crisis with one-year, no-interest emergency loans. The program was announced with a $50,000 cap per award.

But the program ran out of money Tuesday and it ended in less than a month with less than 3% of applying businesses receiving anything.

In total, 945 loans were approved, and only about 815 separate business owners received loans, according to a review of data released by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which ran the program.

More than 60 business owners received multiple loans.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity has not responded to requests from Florida Politics to discuss how the 38,000 applicants were vetted and how the 945 winners were chosen.

On Thursday, when asked at a media availability about the money going in big chunks to certain businesses (Crowell’s sub shops were mentioned specifically) and in smaller amounts or none at all to most others, Gov. Ron DeSantis said it was being reviewed.

“We are looking at it. We are looking to do more money as well, and that’s something that we’re looking at,” he said.

Among those wanting to know are Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart. On Friday she sent a letter to DEO Executive Director Ken Lawson requesting additional information on the applicants, the winners, and the department’s process, telling Lawson, “I believe we owe it to all 38,000 applicants to be as transparent as possible.”

“I’m trying to get to the bottom of the small business loans, and what went down,” she said Friday.

She said she’s also looking for ways to find money for those small businesses who did not get any money from the program.

“OK, that happened,” Stewart said of the bridge loan program. “What can we do moving forward?”

Although the program was described with a $50,000 cap when it was announced, 127 loans were listed as individual loans for $100,000. Another 14 loans were approved ranging from $60,000 to $99,000.

Yet many business owners sought and received multiple loans, some for $100,000 apiece. When business owners received multiple loans, they did so for multiple businesses.

For example, Rivers received $100,000 loans for each of his 4Rivers Smokehouse barbecue restaurants in Winter Garden, Winter Park and Longwood, and another $100,000 loan for his The Coop restaurant in Winter Park. On the other hand, there are more 4Rivers Smokehouse restaurants that did not receive loans.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


3 comments

  • Edward freeman

    April 17, 2020 at 4:42 pm

    I don’t know that Ron DeSantis is a crook. I do know that is mentor is a lifelong conman and grifter. I also know that his administration has repeatedly overseen efforts to send the public’s tax dollars to wealthy and well connected friends of the Republican Party of Florida. The only area where the DeSantis Administration has proved particularly competent is in graft.

  • Renuk McDavid

    April 17, 2020 at 7:12 pm

    Horrible politics. So many of us small business needed this loan to survive, but the money was allocated to their friends. The paycheck protection program is another racket.

  • Michael O'Rourke

    April 18, 2020 at 9:38 am

    This site is turning into an MSNBC type cesspool. These comment immediately jump to calling people crooks and don’t even address the issue of the amount of money made available. $50 million dollars is absurdly inadequate. Come on people. Businesses are shutting down while Nancy Pelosi sits at home showing off her $27,000 refrigerator and telling us to eat chocolate, sounding a bit like Marie Antoinette. We know how that ended up.

Comments are closed.


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