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Florida SBDC at USF Processing Emergency Loans to Help Small Businesses Weather the COVID-19 Storm

By Keith Morelli

TAMPA (March 23, 2020) -- As more and more small businesses begin to feel the pinch of closure or restrictive hours due to the COVID-19 outbreak, there is a helping hand for small business owners caught in this pandemic-dug tunnel. The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program was activated last week and the Florida Small Business Development Center at USF has already begun processing applications to help small businesses in the Tampa Bay region get through the crisis.

“We understand the urgency surrounding the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program,” Eileen Rodriguez, regional director of the Florida SBDC at USF, said. “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.”

The center reported 14,373 unique visits to its coronavirus page as of Sunday and consultants are actively working with 766 clients. So far, about 40 applicants are close to having their applications -- representing requests for more than $1.2 million -- reviewed by the loan committee. Clients who have submitted all the appropriate paperwork will have their applications reviewed by the committee beginning this week. The numbers of applications are rising on a minute-by-minute basis, the center reported Monday afternoon.

To qualify for the loans, applicants must be for-profit, privately held small businesses in Florida that 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. In the past applicants typically waited about two weeks to receive the loans.

Loan decisions are made by an independent committee made up of economic development and finance professionals from within the region. Financing is provided by the state of Florida using public funds.

Small businesses applying for assistance should take the following steps:

Applications missing supporting documents are considered incomplete and will only delay the process. Once these steps are completed, the state of Florida will assign the file to the local Florida SBDC office for follow up. 

For additional qualifications and details for getting started, go to Updates and changes to the process, are available on this webpage.