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Consultants With the Florida SBDC at USF Keep Busy Helping Small Businesses Stay Afloat in the Wake of Hurricane Irma

By Keith Morelli

SBDC giving out loans

TAMPA (October 3, 2017) -- Recognizing that 40 percent of all businesses that shut down following a disaster never re-open, the Florida Small Business Development Center at USF is helping to heal property and economic damage caused by Hurricane Irma last month.

A month after the storm passed, the Florida SBDC at USF had received 97 inquiries about the Florida Emergency Bridge Loan Program. The Florida SBDC at USF manages a loan committee that meets twice per week to review loan applications.

"Thirty-three loans have been closed for a total of $965,500," said Eileen Rodriguez, regional director of the center. "These numbers are very fluid as we are receiving close to 10 applications a day."

Through the center's Business Continuation Services, consultants provide advice at no cost and reveal ways small business owners can minimize losses and increase survivability in the wake of the hurricane that swept through the entire state of Florida last month.

The center currently is administering three types of loans to help small-business owners get back on their feet:

  • The Florida Small Business Bridge Loan Program, available through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, provides short-term, interest-free working capital loans that are intended to help businesses "bridge the gap" between the time a catastrophe hits and when  businesses can secure long-term recovery resources, such as insurance claims or federal assistance. Businesses with two to 100 employees are eligible to apply for loans of up to $50,000 each for terms of 90 or 180 days.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration's business physical disaster loans are available for damaged businesses and most private non-profit organizations in a declared disaster area. Loans of up to $2 million are available for eligible businesses. Loans may be used to repair or replace damaged property, including real estate, inventories, machinery and equipment. Businesses of any size are eligible.
  • The U.S. Small Business Administration's economic injury disaster loans are available for businesses that have sustained substantial economic loss regardless of physical damage done to the property. Businesses of all sizes may qualify for these loans, which provide working capital to help businesses survive until normal operations resume after a disaster. Loans of up to $2 million are available to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses.

The deadline for applications has been extended to Nov. 30.

"We are all hands on deck," said Stacey Dadd, marketing and communications officer for the center. "We have consultants deployed throughout our 10-county region, assisting businesses as they try to determine how they're going to stay afloat after suffering economic or physical injury due to Hurricane Irma."

To help get to business owners in need, the center has deployed two mobile assistance centers – 38-foot recreational vehicles – to provide on-the-scene workspaces for consultants to assist impacted businesses. When not mustered into service during these times, the RVs are on the road to provide services to businesses in the rural parts of the state.

An app also is available through the center. Bizaster, the free mobile disaster-assistance app, is available in both English and Spanish for Android and iOS. It features risk assessments, customized checklists and other resources to help businesses prepare, respond and recover from natural and man-made disasters. Bizaster can be downloaded from the App Store or via Google Play.