ORLANDO, Fla. – Out of 38,000 small business owners who applied for Florida’s Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program, only 1,000 were approved. Meaning the program was closed on Tuesday, leaving 37,000 businesses without the much-needed help.
“The businesses that applied and were unable to be funded through the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program have options,” said Michael W. Myhre, CEO of the Florida SBDC Network in a news release Tuesday. “We share in Governor DeSantis’ and our partners at the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity commitment to help our state’s small businesses survive and recover from COVID-19. To do that, we are now shifting our full attention to helping the unfunded applicants gain access and secure the vital federal disaster resources available to them.”
Hearing the news Wednesday morning left Evan Dimov, owner of Too Much Sauce in Orlando, with little hope. Dimov said he’s lost more than 50% of his revenue, cut back his employees’ hours and applied for any loan that he can qualify for. However, he was hoping this bridge loan could hold him over.
"I was like, 'What do you mean it's gone?'," Dimov said. "That's the one I was counting on until everything kicks in, so I can pay my rent."
More than 400 small businesses have signed an online petition and letter written by state Rep. Anna Eskamani, (D-Orlando), asking the governor to support small businesses by expanding the bridge loan program, among other things.
“I celebrate any business that gets relief right now but I think what’s so frustrating is there are at this point in Florida 37,000 businesses who didn’t even get a notice, I mean many of our small businesses didn’t even know the program ended until we notified them,” Eskamani said.
She has also asked the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity for a list of the 1,000 businesses that did qualify.
“The idea of celebrating a program that only provided relief to 1,000 businesses out of 38,000 is not something we should be celebrating,” she added.
Rep. Linda Stewart, (D-Orlando) also requested the list of 1,000 businesses who qualified. She said she’s also working with Sen. Darren Soto (D-District 9) to get more federal funds to the SBA loans.
“It doesn’t seem fair that so few get the money. It would be better if everybody got a little bit but I don’t know how it was done,” Stewart said. “It’s water over the bridge now because it’s out. I’m pretty sure we are getting some more money we just have to be sure when we get more money, we need to be careful with how it’s used.”
However, Republican representatives weren’t surprised the money ran out as quickly as it did. Many of them applauded the governor and said this was a loan to help bridge the gap until the bigger federal dollars through the Payroll Protection Program come in for small businesses.
“The president is already working with our national leadership to expand the funding of the Payroll Protection Program. In an unprecedented crisis like this it is imperative that we close ranks, observe precautions and not panic," said Rep. Dennis Baxley (R-Lake, Marion, Sumter). “Gov. DeSantis is providing true, measured leadership and communicating well the needs of Floridians. We will work through our challenges with this invisible enemy.”
Rep. Thad Altman (R-parts of Brevard County) also called the program effective.
“The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program is an effective program designed to provide temporary relief to Florida’s small businesses and is one of the many tools we have in helping businesses and their employees get through the current crisis. I am thankful that Florida has such a program. I commend the Governor and Department of Economic Opportunity for their work in activating and distributing these loans in such a quick manner, especially during these unprecedented times. With the continued action taken by our State and Federal Government, there are multiple additional resources available to Florida’s businesses which can be found at covid19.floridajobs.org,”
Rep. Scott Plakon, (R-parts of Seminole County) said the program wasn’t meant to be a permanent solution.
“Fiscally responsible Florida has consistently held higher reserves per capita than almost every state. This loan program was never designed to address a global pandemic and subsequent economic collapse. These are not grants, they are loans with a fairly high interest rate designed only to help small businesses make payroll for a limited time (that’s why it’s called ‘BRIDGE') until the SBA EIDL loans could kick in during a 'normal; emergency…which this is not. I call on Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy to request that Speaker Pelosi stop blocking the $250B request to fully fund the Paycheck Protection Program that would help our small businesses more than any other program.”