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CONTACT: DEENA REPPEN (850) 488-5394 or SCOTT OPENSHAW (850) 487-2568

Governor Bush Announces Emergency "Bridge Loans" Available for Small Business Severely Impacted by Wilma

~Governor responds to request from Florida Legislature to activate loan program ~

TALLAHASSEE - Governor Jeb Bush today activated Florida’s Small Business Emergency ‘Bridge Loan’ Program to provide emergency, short-term loans to businesses in counties severely impacted by Hurricane Wilma. Applications will be available by Friday in Broward, Collier, Glades, Hendry, Lee, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Okeechobee, Palm Beach counties and the Glades communities of Belle Glade, Pahokee, and South Bay. The Governor has allocated $20 million from General Revenue to fund the Bridge Loan Program. The appropriation is made through a budget amendment pursuant to the Governor’s emergency declaration.

“Hurricane Wilma impacted millions of Floridians, including hundreds of small businesses and the employees who work in them,” said Governor Bush. “The quick revitalization of our small businesses is a vital part of the State’s recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Wilma. Offering an immediate source of cash flow for businesses in need allows impacted businesses to quickly re-open their doors in the wake of the storm. I thank the Florida Legislature for their expedient and thoughtful response to Hurricane Wilma recovery efforts, in part through requesting the reactivation of the bridge loan program.”

The state’s emergency bridge loan program is designed to provide a source of expedient cash flow to businesses physically damaged during a major catastrophe, enabling them to quickly begin repairs and replace destroyed inventory. These short-term loans are intended to “bridge the gap” between the time a major catastrophe hits and when a business has secured other resources, such as profits from revived a business, payment of insurance claims or secured longer-term loans.

The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program was first activated in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in an effort to provide short-term emergency funds to businesses in need of immediate cash flow. The bridge loan program has subsequently been used to minimize economic impacts of the Winter Storm of 1993, the Northwest Florida Floods of 1994, Hurricane Opal, Hurricane Georges, Hurricane Charley, Hurricane Frances, Hurricane Ivan, Hurricane Jeanne, and Hurricane Dennis.

Short-term loans of up to $25,000 will be available to owners of small businesses (less than 100 employees) in those counties most impacted by Hurricane Wilma. The interest-free loans come in terms of 90-day or 180-day maturities. To be eligible, a business owner must have been operational for one full year prior to Hurricane Wilma (October 24) and have verifiable, physical damage to their business.

A five-member committee comprised of three local bankers, one community representative and one representative from Enterprise Florida, Inc. or the Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development reviews applications for approval. The time from application through closing of loans is as little as 72 hours.

For an application or more information on the program, please contact the Governor’s Office of Tourism, Trade, and Economic Development at (850) 487-2568, or the local economic development office in counties most severely impacted by Hurricane Wilma:

  • Broward County contact the Broward Alliance at (954) 524-3113 or the Broward County Economic Development Council, Pat Taylor at (954) 831-3847
  • Collier County contact Tammie Nemecek at (239) 263-8989
  • Glades, Okeechobee, and the Glades communities of Belle Glade, Pahokee, South Bay contact Lynn Topel at (800) 620-3602
  • Hendry County contact Janice Groves at (863) 675-6007
  • Lee County contact Regina Smith at (800) 330-3161
  • Miami-Dade contact the Beacon Council at (305) 579-1300
  • Monroe County contact the South Florida Regional Planning Council at (800) 985-4416
  • Palm Beach County contact the Business Development Board at (561) 835-1008

U.S. SBA also provides long-term, disaster assistance loans to support businesses and non-profit organizations to repair damage to real estate, machinery, equipment, and inventory as a result of Hurricane Dennis. The SBA business disaster loans are provided at low interest and long-term (up to 30 years). For more information on SBA disaster assistance loans, go to www.sba.gov. To apply for SBA disaster assistance, victims of Hurricane Dennis are urged to contact 1-800-621-FEMA to register for disaster assistance with FEMA, who will also refer business recovery needs to SBA for priority loan consideration.

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Last updated: November 09, 2007