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Florida SBDC at USF Pulling Small Businesses out of the COVID-19 Mire

By Stacey Dadd

Florida SBDC at USF Pulling Small Businesses out of the COVID-19 Mire

TAMPA (April 6, 2020) -- Small businesses across the nation are reeling in the face of coronavirus. Even before Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order last week, businesses were scrambling to stay afloat, as customers stayed indoors and certain businesses were previously ordered to shut the doors or reduce capacity.

Staff members and business consultants at the Florida SBDC at the University of South Florida are working feverishly to help get those businesses the assistance they need to stay afloat. With DeSantis activating the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program on March 16, the Florida SBDC Network has been working through thousands of applications submitted by small business owners.

“In our region alone, we have received more than 5,000 applications from small business owners in the last two weeks,” Eileen Rodriguez, regional director of the Florida SBDC at USF, said. “And those applications keep rolling in every day.” Statewide, more than 20,000 applications have been received by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

To qualify, applicants must be for-profit, privately held small businesses that maintain a place of business in Florida. Businesses must also be an employer with two to 100 employees. Loans are interest-free for one year. Businesses can qualify for up to $50,000 in most instances. 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.

To apply, click here.

“To date, the loan committee has approved 41 loans amounting to $1.9 million in funding,” Rodriguez said. “As of this week, we are adding additional committee meetings to the schedule so we can increase capacity and get businesses the funding they so desperately need.”

Due to the sheer magnitude of this disaster activation, the Florida SBDC at USF is not able to provide updates regarding application status at this time, other than to confirm whether or not the application is in the queue.

“It’s all hands on deck,” Rodriguez said. “We are focusing all of our efforts on getting applications through the process as accurately and quickly as we can.”

For details on additional programs available to small businesses, click here. Consultants are also providing guidance on the SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan and the new Paycheck Protection Program.