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Hundreds of local businesses claim emergency bridge loan before funds run out

Out of 38,000 applications, nearly 1,000 businesses get loan approval

DeLAND, Fla. – On Thursday, the Federal Small Business Administration stopped accepting applications for the Emergency Bridge Loan Program because funds ran out.

News 6 went through state documents and found that out of 38,000 applications, 944 businesses were approved for the bridge funding as of Wednesday. More than 200 of those that were approved were Central Florida businesses.

A month ago, business was booming at Doug and Lil’s Potato Patch restaurant in DeLand. After new regulations were put in place on restaurants because of the coronavirus, they tried to transition to curbside pick-up.

[READ: Here’s how much money Central Florida small businesses have already lost amid coronavirus pandemic | Central Florida small business owners compete for limited money to help workers]

“This is more breakfast-lunch and we just saw the handwriting on the wall basically. We can’t make any money, we couldn’t keep our employees busy so we just shut it down,” owner Doug Rand said.

Rand had to make the difficult decision to lay off his employees and temporarily close.

“I’m not used to being on computers on end trying to apply for these loans,” Rand said. “One of the state loans required more documentation than we had and limited funding available.”

Rand said he was able to get a $10,000 loan from the Small Business Administration to help with some expenses, but didn’t even get to put in an application for the Emergency Bridge Loan Program before it ran out of money.

About 38,000 businesses applied. Less than 1,000 received the assistance, according to state documents. 4 Rivers Smokehouse owner, John Rivers, was one of the lucky ones securing $100,000 for each of his four restaurants.

“We’ve been able to rehire over 200 of our staff members and give them jobs again,” Rivers said.

[READ MORE: Orlando launches online program to help small businesses impacted by COVID-19 | Hurry up and wait? Why relief to small businesses has lagged during coronavirus pandemic]

Rivers said he’s been able to rework the restaurant’s business model to start a grocery market, virtual pop-up drive-thru and provide emergency meals for local school districts and hospitals. He said the bridge program is just a temporary lifesaver and worries about the impact it will have on businesses later on.

“If they want businesses to stay open, all of those expenses that are deferred, they have to be paid. There’s a false expectation that on day one it’s going to be 100%. If you’re still operating at 60%, you can’t also take on the deferred expenses once things open back up,” Rivers said.

Back at the Potato Patch, the owners are working on DIY projects -- replacing ceiling tiles and tablecloths -- as they wait for a response on the PPP loan.

The owners of Doug and Lil’s Potato Patch said they hope the mini facelift they’ve done on their restaurant is something customers can look forward to when they open back up. They just don’t know when that will happen.


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