Janet Cruz calls on Gov. DeSantis to allocate another $50M for small business emergency loans

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Only 2% of businesses who applied received funds before funding dried up.

A prominent Democratic state Senator is calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to allocate at least $50 million in additional funds for the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program, which ran out of money last week.

Sen. Janet Cruz wrote to DeSantis asking for new funding, as well as better oversight over the loans to ensure they are fairly allocated.

After funds ran out last week, records showed that fewer than 1,000 businesses were awarded loans while 37,000 were not.

“It is clear that the $50 million allocated for this program was not nearly enough. Our state government must help more than the 2.6% of small businesses that applied for the Emergency Bridge Loan,” Cruz wrote.

“I respectfully request that you use executive emergency powers to increase the funding allocated to the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program. Additionally, new guidelines should be put in place for the program so that it may be accessed by more small business owners that are desperately in need of assistance.”

Cruz asked for a minimum of $50 million for more loans as well as guidelines blocking individual owners of multiple entities from receiving multiple loans until other businesses have had their applications considered.

A Florida Politics assessment of the first round of the program found that multiple business owners received several loans, even as other applicants were not granted a dime.

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. And those weren’t the only examples.

Cruz also requested the program cap loans at $50,000 per entity. That had originally been the plan, but Orlando restauranteur John Rivers got four loans somehow totaling $400,000 for his 4Rivers and The Coop restaurants in Central Florida, twice what the per loan cap should have applied.

Cruz also asked that the program be need-based and prioritize businesses in highly affected industries like bars and restaurants and tourism.

“This system cannot continue to favor those with the best resources, connections, and ability to navigate these economic challenges,” Cruz wrote. “It is unfathomable that numerous individuals have been able to claim in excess of $400,000 for their various businesses while an overwhelming majority of applicants receive $0.”

Cruz also wrote that many of her colleagues are ready to convene for a Special Session if DeSantis feels it is necessary to allocate additional funds for the program.

“Florida’s small businesses are in grave need. During this difficult and uncertain time, we must act swiftly, deliberately, and collaboratively to deliver immediate relief,” she concluded.

Florida Politics reporter Scott Powers contributed to this report.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


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