Articles

Florida SBDC at USF Making Emergency Bridge Loans Available for Businesses Impacted by Red Tide

By Stacey Dadd

Map of red tide area

TAMPA (October 12, 2018) -- The year-long scourge of red tide along the Southwest Florida coast has killed millions of fish and other marine life and can cause respiratory problems for beach goers. The bloom has plagued areas as far north as Pinellas County.

While red tide, a naturally occurring algae that has been documented along the Florida Gulf Coast for centuries, continues to devastate wildlife, it also impacts tourism. Some restaurants and Gulf-side watering holes have closed or are cutting back hours because of a lack of tourists visiting the area.

In response, Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency due to impacts of red tide in Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Manatee, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties and that has opened up avenues through which eligible businesses can get some relief from the state.

The Florida Small Business Development Center at USF is administering a state-sponsored emergency bridge loan program in which businesses can receive sums of up to $50,000 each. The funds are available to businesses that are affected by the red-tide impact in those counties. The loans are interest-free if repaid within six months.

The Florida SBDC at USF has been guiding business owners through the application process and is responsible for submitting the applications to the independent committee for review.

To date, the center has facilitated 36 loans for a total of $1.3 million in emergency funding, with 18 applications still in progress. Most of the businesses that have been awarded the loans hail from Sarasota and Manatee counties. The center has four consultants dedicated to this program.

The deadline to submit an emergency bridge loan application was extended last week by the state to Dec. 3. The center also expects to see an increase in loan applications as a result of Hurricane Michael. The declared disaster area extends as far south as Sarasota County.

Businesses interested in applying for an emergency bridge loan can fill out an application at floridadisaster.org or contact the Florida SBDC at USF office.