What money is available for struggling small businesses?

Coronavirus

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — As restaurants and small businesses across Tampa Bay struggle to stay afloat due to coronavirus, state and federal funds are becoming available to keep them from going under.

But there’s a catch: it could take anywhere from 30-60 days for that money to be made available. In some cases, the funds earmarked for assistance could also run out.

Attorney Matthew Hall with Tampa firm Hill Ward Henderson walked 8 On Your Side through what resources are available.

“It’s not cash today-type resources,” Hall explained.

The first option for small business owners is to apply for a disaster bridge loan from the State of Florida. These are interest-free loans up to $50,000 (with some exceptions for up to $100,000) for employees with 100 employees or less.

Businesses with up to 500 employees can also borrow up to $2 million from the federal government through the Small Business Administration bridge loan program. These loans have a 3.75% interest rate.

Both state and federal disaster loans must be paid back, according to Hall. These applications are already live and there’s no fee or penalty if you fill them out and later withdraw the application.

There’s also a third option, Hall says. In the coronavirus relief bill recently passed by Congress and signing to law Friday, roughly $350 billion is earmarked for what’s been dubbed the Payroll Protection loan program.

“The Paycheck Protection Program is specifically designed to help small businesses keep their workforce employed,” read a release from the SBA released Tuesday. Businesses with 500 employees or less can qualify.

The federal government hopes to have the program up and running by April 3 but that is not guaranteed.

“We just don’t know what kind of time frame it’s going to be before the money is actually issued,” Hall said, given the unprecendented circumstances.

For the bridge loans, Hall has been advising his clients 30-60 days, which he is aware is not fast enough for many companies, especially restaurants.

But while some local staples are shutting down for good, other Tampa restaurants are remaining optimistic they can board up and weather the storm.

Rob Wickner opened Butter’s Burgers, a gourmet burger joint in downtown Tampa on March 13th…the same day the president declared a national emergency in response to the coronavirus.

“You know, it’s kind of like the world stopped turning,” Wickner said. “It’s stressful just to open a restaurant and then to have that on top of it, it’s just mindboggling.”

Opening Butter’s Burgers is a project close to Wickner’s heart. He named it after his beloved pug, Butters. But after just eight days in business, he made the heavy-hearted choice to close up until the crisis passes.

When they open for good, he says they’ll look back at this as a test run.

“When we get up and running, it’s going to be strong,” Wickner said.

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