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Florida SBDC at USF Continues to Assist Businesses Affected by Coronavirus Pandemic

By Stacey Dadd

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TAMPA (April 28, 2020) -- Although the source of funding for the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program has dried up, consultants with the Florida Small Business Development Center at USF continue to advise business owners about alternative ways to stay afloat during the COVID-19 outbreak and shutdown.

The pandemic has impacted all businesses in the state of Florida, one way or another. Some businesses have found success in pivoting from brewing beer to making hand sanitizer or going from tailoring wedding dresses to manufacturing masks. But others are finding themselves stuck in a cash flow crunch, as they’ve been required to close their doors amid stay-at-home orders.

Staff members and consultants at the Florida SBDC at USF have been on the virtual frontline since March 16, assisting small businesses in navigating the myriad of emergency funding opportunities offered via the state of Florida and the U.S. Small Business Administration. Before the funds ran out on April 14, the center received more than 6,300 applications via the state of Florida.

Though emergency funding programs were quickly over-extended due to high demand, consultants continue to work with clients on how to get their businesses through the slump by focusing on other strategies. To that end, the center is creating short tip webinars to assist small businesses while in-person seminars have been cancelled, encouraging them to think outside the box in terms of strategies. These webinars can be found here.

To request a no-cost consulting session, business owners are encouraged to complete a request for consulting, click here. Once all required information has been submitted, center staff will reach out as quickly as possible to schedule a no-cost appointment.

The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program initially provided $50 million in total funding for small businesses in the state that were negatively impacted by coronavirus, with individual loans up to $50,000 in most cases. The Florida SBDC at USF was called on to process application packages. The center had 78 applications funded for a total of $4,156,000, before the bridge loan program closed. An additional $3 million in applications had been approved by the independent loan committee for the Tampa Bay region, but they were not funded as allocated monies were already exhausted.

In addition to processing bridge loan applications, center consultants have been busy assisting small businesses interested in the Paycheck Protection Program and the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan programs. While the center does not process applications for either program directly, its consultants have been available to answer common questions and give clients guidance regarding how to check the status of their applications, and figuring out if they meet the qualifications to apply.

Since March 16, center staff has responded to more than 3,000 requests for consulting in the area of capital access.