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Dozens of Florida small businesses granted emergency bridge loans amid COVID-19's economic crisis

Posted at 6:32 PM, Mar 27, 2020

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — More than 100 small businesses have taken advantage of Florida’s emergency bridge loans, according to the state Department of Economic Opportunity.

The governor announced the $50 million aid program last week as a way to quickly hand over funds and keep small companies operating as COVID-19 prevention wreaks havoc on the economy.

Full Press Apparel, in North Florida, was one of the first of two businesses in the state to secure the up to $50,000 loans.

After losing about 60% of their business, co-owner Danny Shrine says the money saved him from having to layoff staff. He says the loan will cover him until expected federal aid arrives.

“All of us as small businesses are dependent on our employees,” Shrine said. “Being able to keep engaged and get right back to work once everybody can is going to be good for us all.”

Financial experts warn bridge loans are meant to be paid back fast and have high-interest rates. The emergency program is no exception. After the first year, interest goes from zero to 12% on the remaining debt.

DEO Director Ken Lawson says the program isn’t designed for long-term aid.

“The concern is this,” Lawson said. “How do we get through the short term? Then we have got to get through medium and long. But my department is providing every resource that we have.”

Businesses have until May 8 to apply, unless funding runs out first. More than 10% of that $50 million is already gone.