TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Hurricane Idalia was bad for business.
In its wake, Florida activated an emergency loan program to help small businesses get up to $50,000, quickly. But is that money being released to those who desperately need it?
One small business owner tells Investigator Mahsa Saeidi that he’s hitting roadblocks and delays.
Solar Direct is a provider of solar products in Manatee County that employs roughly 30 people. CEO Kirk Maust says he needs this money to continue to operate. That’s why he applied for this loan.
But he says the state is not approving his application—or even picking up the phone.
The first hit was COVID. Then Hurricane Ian and Idalia.
Some small businesses in Florida, like Solar Direct, have been left struggling.
Maust says the storms didn’t damage his building, but they nearly destroyed his business.
“We had almost $2 million worth of contracts, ” he said. “The hurricane hit, and then the next day, there were no houses or roofs left to do the work.”
“It’s been very stressful since then to pay our vendors, pay payroll, make the bills.”
Kirk applied for federal disaster aid, a notoriously sluggish program.
In the meantime, he needed cash quickly. Enter: Florida.
The governor activated the Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program to give up to $50,000 for companies hurt physically, or economically.
The funds were intended to bridge the gap as the business worked to secure long-term funding.
“It’s an emergency bridge loan so the emergency is that they don’t answer their phone or help you,” said Maust.
Maust applied, and they asked him to turn in more documents. Online records show he did. But one month later, the application is still “pending DEO review”.
Mahsa called DEO or the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The mailbox was full.
We also contacted multiple state officials to get Maust help.
“If this is happening to me, I’m assuming it’s happening to others. If I can’t get through on the phone, it means that no one can get through on the phone.”
8 On Your Side will keep working to get answers.
In the meantime, if you would like to apply for this loan, you have only five days left.
The deadline is Oct. 25.
If you have a comment, question or tip, email Mahsa at MSaeidi@WFLA.com