TAMPA, Fla (WFLA) – Small businesses and their employees are starting to feel the financial impacts of the growing COVID-19 pandemic.
Both St. Petersburg and Tampa had put heavy restrictions on the foodservice industry, with Tampa Mayor Jane Castor ordering all restaurants and bars to only utilize 50 percent capacity and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman limiting service hours to only last until 9 p.m.
Gov. Ron DeSantis followed, announcing new measures on Tuesday including closing bars and nightclubs for the next 30 days beginning at 5 p.m. on March 17.
“Stealth carriers, people who don’t have symptoms, but then are nevertheless passing along or have such mild symptoms is something that really nobody has a handle on that,” DeSantis said. “If they’re not meeting in those big groups the chances of that being passed on is less.”
With Florida nearing 200 confirmed cases, the state’s 2.5 million small businesses registered through the Small Business Administration have been left scrambling to find solutions to keep both employees and patrons safe, while keeping their business afloat.
Firms with fewer than 100 employees have the largest share of small business employment in the state, so approximately 3.3 million employees of small businesses in Florida could be wondering where their next paycheck will come from.
Governor Ron DeSantis activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program on Monday to provide support to employees and business owners during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The Bridge Loan Program, managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), will provide interest-free, short-term loans to small businesses that experienced a financial impact from the coronavirus.
“It was an innovation of Jeb Bush created because state officials recognized that in times of crisis, our economic wellbeing is based largely on the wellbeing of small businesses,” said Mike Myhre, CEO for the Florida Small Business Development Center (SBDC) Network.
Myhre said the Bridge Loan Program has been activated more than 30 times, usually in the event of a natural disaster, and has helped tens of thousands of small businesses in the state navigate through difficult economic times.
The application period opens Tuesday, March 17, and runs through Friday, May 8, according to DeSantis’s office. The state has allocated up to $50 million for the program.
To be eligible for the loan, businesses have to be for-profit, privately held small business that maintains a physical location.
Small business owners can apply for the loan here.
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