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Coronavirus: How small businesses in Florida can apply for aid

Tampa Bay Times logo Tampa Bay Times 3/18/2020 By Richard Danielson, Tampa Bay Times
a dining room table: Carmine's Ybor restaurant in Tampa closed early due to the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, the same day Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis activated a $50 million small business emergency bridge loan program for Florida businesses with two to 100 employees. © OCTAVIO JONES/Times/Tampa Bay Times/TNS Carmine's Ybor restaurant in Tampa closed early due to the coronavirus pandemic on Monday, the same day Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis activated a $50 million small business emergency bridge loan program for Florida businesses with two to 100 employees.

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With the coronavirus pandemic shutting down business statewide, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis this week made $50 million available to small businesses in the state hurt by the disaster.

Efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus by reducing social interaction in public and commercial spaces will harm “small businesses throughout our state,” DeSantis acknowledged Monday in announcing the program.

“By activating the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan,” he said, "we are providing the opportunity for Florida’s small businesses to receive cash immediately to ensure they can lessen the impacts felt as a result of COVID-19,” which is the name of the disease caused by the new virus.

The stakes are high. An estimated 25 percent of businesses don’t open again after a major disaster, according to Institute for Business and Home Safety data cited by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Here are some details of the Florida small business emergency bridge loan program:

Who can apply? For-profit, privately held small businesses with two to 100 employees that maintain a place of business in Florida, were established before March 9, 2020 and suffered economic injury as a result of the disaster. The need for the loan and use of the money must be directly related to the economic injury caused by the disaster.

How much is available? Up to $50,000 per eligible small business. Only one loan will be made per eligible business. Loans of up to $100,000 are possible in special cases as warranted by the need of the eligible small business.

What are the terms? The loans will be for one year with no interest. If not repaid within a year, the interest rate on the unpaid balance will rise to 12 percent per year until the loan is paid in full. Borrowers who default on the loans will be subject to normal commercial collection processes. If a business has received a previous loan from the state emergency bridge loan program, that loan must have been paid in full before the business can apply for a coronavirus-related loan.

What’s the deadline? May 8, depending on the availability of funds.

How do I get started? Go to The loan application is available at

Are any businesses not eligible? Yes. Ineligible businesses include those that make more than one-third of their gross annual revenue from legal gambling, as well as any businesses engaged in any illegal activity, businesses that present live performances of an “indecent sexual nature” or derive more 2.5 percent of their gross revenue by selling products or services that display an indecent sexual nature, businesses that have a primary purpose of facilitating polyamorous relationships, massage parlors, hot tub facilities and escort services.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity manages the loan program in partnership with Florida First Capital Finance Corp. and the state’s network of small business development centers, known as SBDCs.

In the Tampa Bay area, businesses can ask for assistance in completing the application from the Florida SBDC at USF, a state-designated provider of small business assistance to businesses in a 10-county area that includes Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando, Manatee, Sarasota and Polk counties.

To contact the Florida SBDC at USF, Tampa Bay area businesses can email or call (813) 905-5800.

Outside the Tampa Bay area, businesses seeking assistance completing the application form can find their local small business development center by checking or calling (866) 737-7232.

Tampa Bay Times coronavirus guide

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BE PREPARED: Guidelines for essentials to keep in your home should you have to stay inside.

STOCK UP YOUR PANTRY: Foods that should always be in your kitchen, for emergencies and everyday life.

FACE MASKS: They offer some protection, but studies debate their effectiveness.

WORKPLACE RISK: A list of five things employers could be doing to help curb the spread of the disease.

READER BEWARE: Look out for bad information as false claims are spreading online.


? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

? Florida Department of Health

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