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Small business owners: Florida representative hosts town hall to address coronavirus economic concerns

$375 billion in small business help coming from stimulus bill

Rep. Darren Soto (D-Florida) is hosting a virtual town hall Wednesday to answer questions from small business owners in Central Florida.

Businesses across the U.S. and the globe are facing closure, furloughs and more economic impacts due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A $2.2 trillion stimulus bill signed by President Donald Trump last week will offer some relief to small business owners and their workers.

[RELATED: Struggling to keep up with coronavirus unemployment claims, Florida awaits guidance on benefits for contractors]

The bill includes more than $375 billion dedicated to small business relief. That figure includes $349 billion for forgivable loans to small businesses to pay their employees and keep them on the payroll, $17 billion for debt relief for current and new borrowers and $10 billion in immediate disaster grants, according to Soto’s office.

According to Soto, the small business loans will include paycheck protection and can be forgiven when used for payroll costs--including paid leave and healthcare-- to retain workers. The loans can also help businesses cover rent, mortgage interest and utilities.

“If you keep your employees and you pay them for the next two and half months, the federal government will take the unprecedented step to pay 100 percent of your payroll costs,” Soto said.

He said beginning Friday and until June 30, businesses with less than 500 employees, including nonprofits, can begin applying for assistance.

“You can secure a payroll protection loan up to 2.5 times the average monthly payroll costs for up to $10 million,” Soto said. “We know that small business employs the most of Central Floridians, so we need to make sure that they understand all of the opportunities available to them.”

Independent contractors, sole-proprietors and other self-employed persons are also eligible for these loans, Soto said.

Small businesses can also apply for up to $10,000 in grants to retain workers and pay for debt obligations.

To apply, small businesses should contact their lender and the Small Business Administration office directly. The number for the Central and North Florida districts is 407-648-2891

The stimulus bill includes funding for employers who provide required leave to their employees and who employ less than 500 employees are eligible for a tax credit to offset the costs of leave. For additional guidance business owners should check the IRS’s website.

On Wednesday at 1 p.m. Soto hosted a town hall on Zoom and addressed some questions about when small business owners and their staff might see some of that relief.

Soto represents Florida’s 9th District which includes Osceola County, and parts of Orange and Polk counties.

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