Part 2: Emergency Bridge Loans & Other Opportunities
So, you may have recently followed me in my saga of deciding which CARES Act stimulus program was right for my small business, Christina’s Magical Unicorn Sales. Like many of you, however, I took the opportunity to apply for the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program. Opened by Governor Ron DeSantis on March 17, the Florida Small Business Bridge Loan Program was one of the first disaster-related loans for small businesses available in the wake of COVID-19. The window to apply for this loan closed April 14, and, as I’m sure many of you are, I am wondering when I will see benefit.
Unlike the funds offered as a result of the CARES Act, the Florida Small Business Emergency Bride Loan Program is NOT an SBA loan. Rather, it is run through the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity to provide short-term, interest-free loans to small businesses that experienced economic injury from COVID-19. I know that this loan was not intended to be a primary source of assistance during a disaster like COVID-19, but it might help bridge the gap (….hey, I see what they did there…) while I wait for further assistance or recovery.
Since I do maintain a physical storefront here in Florida that opened before March 9, 2020, employ between 2 and 500 people (5 actually, since I decided to keep Gaston on….but he is being closely monitored), do not currently owe any money on previous state emergency bridge loans, have been injured economically by the current situation, and own at least 51% of the equity in my business (I own my office, but rent my stables) I should easily qualify. Thankfully, I have kept excellent records and it was easy for me to fill out the application and attach my Business Tax Returns, Employer Tax Documentation, Individual Tax Returns, and government issued ID. I feel I should be in good shape.
But, jeez, I’m impatient. I want to know the status of my loan NOW. I called my good buddy Rafael Pratts at the Florida Small Business Development Center at UCF (he’s a real person, please contact him if you have questions about your bridge loan application), to see where I stand. Apparently, the state received a high volume of applications for this loan and they are in the process of reviewing applications.
Rafael gave me some good advice. Since I submitted my application online, I can visit www.floridajobs.org/covid-19 to check the status of my loan application. So, now I spend my time between episodes of Tiger King alternately checking my loan status and checking my bank account for that stimulus check we’re all supposed to receive (okay, and watching the occasional entertaining YouTube video…I’m only human…).
My business acquaintance Adolfo also applied for a Bridge Loan. Since he was assisted by Rafael and mailed in his application and attachments directly to the DEO, he decided he would be better off checking on his application status by calling their toll-free number (833-832-4494), or alternately emailing them at FloridaBusinessLoanFund@deo.myflorida.com.
While we wait to learn the status of our loan applications, it is reassuring to know that 1,000 businesses throughout Florida have already been approved for a total of $49 million. Rafael assured me that the DEO will continue to approve loans until available funds are expended.
Rafael also advised Adolfo and me that there are a number of other loans for small businesses available through the SBA that are worth looking into. We advised him that we have been there, done that regarding the Paycheck Protection Program and EIDL Loans that were a product of the CARES Act. He said that there are other state and federal loan options available, such as the state’s Florida Small Business Loan Program and Rebuild Florida Business Loan Fund, and suggested we visit FloridaSBDC.org to learn more about some of those and how the SBDC can assist us. A comprehensive overview of state and federal resources for small businesses affected by COVID-19 is available at Floridajobs.org/COVID-19 as well.
One item that piqued my interest was the SBA Debt Relief program, which was also part of the CARES Act. This program will provide a reprieve to small businesses that already have outstanding loans. For example, my feed supplier SparkleHay™, which had a rough year last year due to new tariffs imposed on trade between fantastical realms, was moved to take out a 7(a) loan last July through the SBA. The SBA Debt Relief Program will pay the principal and interest on their current loan for a period of six months. This is great news for them because their current loan may make it difficult to apply for new ones, but this will help aid them from slipping into debt from repaying a loan they are now not as equipped to repay due to a drop in business brought on by COVID-19.
The SBDC will be receiving additional funding as well to design new training and consulting services as they work to aid small businesses around Florida in their recovery efforts. I will make sure I get on Rafael’s mailing list so I will be alerted when any relevant (free!) classes or consultations are offered. I know that Adolfo, the folks at SparkleHay™, Judy my handyman, the do-gooders at Save the Unicorns! Inc., and I are all ready to get back to businesses and optimistic that this confusing time of economic strain won’t last. And when it’s safe, and you’re ready to get back out and about and looking for a way to stimulate our economy, I plan to be there for all of your Magical Unicorn needs.