This FIU BizNews report was republished here with permission. This report has been updated.
The coronavirus has delivered a serious blow to small businesses throughout South Florida, and many are afraid of what the future holds. Amidst this crisis, the Florida SBDC at FIU Business (FSBDC), the small business development center at Florida International University’s College of Business, is providing much-needed assistance.
As of April 10, (UPDATED), the center helped local businesses obtain nearly $4.5 million in Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loans, which provide up to $50,000 loans to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Loans of up to $100,000 can be made in special circumstances. The Bridge Loan program was closed April 14, when the $50 million in funding from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity had been allocated to 1,000 loans throughout the state (UPDATED).
“Given the uncertainty and widespread impact of this coronavirus, businesses are desperate for cash to keep operating,” said Brian Van Hook, regional director of the FSBDC, which provides no-cost consulting to entrepreneurs and small-business owners. “These funds can help them keep or bring back employees, cover debts, and address other fixed operating expenses.”
Among the hardest hit local businesses are restaurants and bars, retail stores, professional businesses and anything in the hospitality industry, Van Hook noted. “Everything from small, two-person nail salons to multimillion-dollar construction businesses are feeling the severe impact of this disaster. It is much different than what everyone is used to where parts of the economy are back up and running within a week or two.”
While there are a number of federal, state and local resources available, confusion about processes and eligibility are making it harder for business owners who need to access these programs. Knowing where to go, and what program is the best fit for each business, is one of the toughest parts.
Consultants at the FSBDC guide applicants to the best resource for them, explain the eligibility criteria, assist with applications, walk them through the review process and help get funds into the business’ hands.
“That is where groups like FSBDC come in. We help business owners navigate the ‘alphabet soup,’” Van Hook added, pointing out options including the EBL (Florida Emergency Bridge Loan), EIDL (SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan) and the PPP (SBA Paycheck Protection Program).
As part of its assistance, the FSBDC at FIU has hosted two webinars offering
guidance and information on the economic resources available to small businesses impacted by COVID-19. Another one is scheduled for April 10, 2020.
“The biggest benefit to our clients is to map out the programs and how they fit together,” Van Hook added. “Also, how to put the funds to best use after they get approved.”
Small businesses are key drivers of South Florida’s economy.
A study commissioned by the FSBDC, Small Business. Big Impact: Report on Small Businesses in Miami-Dade County 2018, showed that more than 82,000 small businesses employ 53.3 percent of Miami-Dade County’s workforce.
“It has always been clear how small businesses are the backbone and drivers of our local economy,” said Van Hook. “COVID-19 is shining a light not just on this but also how interconnected South Florida businesses are – from large to small.”
The FSBDC at FIU, which began offering services in Miami-Dade County in 2014, provides no-cost consulting and guidance on topics including growth acceleration, access to capital and market analysis.
Since then, the center has helped launch more than 193 businesses and assisted local entrepreneurs and small-business owners in creating or retaining 9,990 jobs; generating $1.33 billion in increased sales; acquiring $123.3 million in government contracts; and accessing $145.5 million in capital. The center also expanded services to Monroe County in October 2018.
The FSBDC webinars:
Resources available for small businesses: