Disaster Preparedness Finance

The lowdown on COVID-19 relief: What’s ahead, what’s here, and advice for small businesses

Another round of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is likely on the way to help small businesses impacted by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Exactly what that relief funding will look like exactly is still a matter of Capitol Hill debate. But at this time, it looks like the next round of the PPP will target the smallest, hardest-hit businesses and may also allow those businesses to take a second dip if they already received a PPP.

Sen. Marco Rubio released a new proposal this week that would give small, struggling businesses the option to take out an additional forgivable PPP loan. He urged Congress to “take action to help industries and businesses, especially minority-owned small businesses and those in low-income communities that have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.”


The current PPP program is set to expire on August 8 and small businesses can still apply through their banks through that deadline. According to a new survey released this week by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, some 46% of PPP loan recipients said they’d need more financial support in the next 12 months, while 71% said they had already spent their loans.

The local need is dire. According to a study by Yelp, the consumer review site, 2,991 businesses closed in the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach metro area between March 1 and July 10. Nearly 2,000 of them have closed permanently, including 417 restaurants and 285 retail businesses, according to Yelp.

“We need more funding, that’s the situation,” said Fabiana Estrada, director of lending for Accion Southeast. With a national network of lenders, Accion empowers small business owners to access capital and education. Along with other CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions) and nonprofit organizations, Accion has been helping small businesses tap into relief as the pandemic is leaving immense economic destruction in its wake. Last week, she addressed the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, chaired by Rubio, about the critical need for another round of forgivable PPP relief for struggling minority-owned businesses.

The PPP is not the only option for small businesses in South Florida. Here’s the lowdown on small business relief options and tips for success.


The RISE Miami Fund is one option that still has loan funds available, Estrada said. The Dade County Federal Credit Union is administering the county program, in partnership with Accion, BBIF and Miami Bayside Foundation.

Loans up to $30,000 at 3.25% interest are available, Estrada said. The loan amounts are calculated based on  the business’ costs of rent or mortgage for three months (or six if the business is home-based), but the money can be used for working capital, Estrada said.

“It’s also with a really low interest rate – 3.25% that is prime, no repayments for the first three months and the loan will be payable in 36 months. This is a loan and not a grant.”

The business needs to be based in Miami-Dade and have been in operation for two years, she said. “The credit score required is 575 — that is really a low score because we are trying to help as many as we can.”

More than a thousand businesses have already applied but there is still funding available. To apply for the RISE Miami loan, visit risemiamidade.com.

The RISE Miami program is very attractive but it’s not perfect. The downside is the funds are not available to startup businesses and because the funds are through the U.S. Cares Act, they are also not available to entrepreneurs with work visas. “There are a lot of things we could improve on, absolutely,” Estrada said. She said there is a willingness in the community to work on a program for these small business owners but it’s not in place yet.


On the runway is a fund for Miami-Dade food businesses

Miami-Dade County is preparing to offer a separate, $35 million fund for food businesses, particularly the hard-hit local independently owned and operated restaurants and non-home-based caterers impacted by COVID-19.

That program is scheduled to open Aug. 3. Like for the RISE Miami fund, priority will be given to businesses that have not been approved or received funds from any institution under the PPP or other federal or state assisted business loan program.

Accion and other organizations such as Florida SBDC at FIU and SCORE help small businesses access the funding by guiding them through the processes. As of mid-July, SBDC at FIU Business had helped 250 businesses secure $31.25 million in COVID-19 assistance, including $16.9 million in SBA PPP funds, $9.75 million in SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). and $4.5 million in Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loans

“We helped clients with the PPP with great success, including the micro PPP grants of less than $1,000,” said Estrada, noting that Accion could administer this level of funding that was too small for larger lenders to be interested in.


Estrada’s top advice for small businesses: “Be ready, be prepared, and if you don’t understand the process, reach out to nonprofit organizations. We are not going to charge for the guidance. There are so many companies taking advantage of small businesses.”

She has heard of businesses charging $1,000 for their services. The CDFIs, the SBDCs and SCORE offer this help for free, she said.

Estrada suggested you work with the network you have, your bank, your lawyer, and always go to a trusted organization for help. “Unfortunately in times of need we see a lot of people trying to take advantage. That’s sad.”

She hopes that future relief programs avoid putting strict limits on how funds will be used. “Right now we include payroll, rent etc. but every business has different needs. We need some flexibility along with low interest rates. We know that our small businesses want to pay us back, absolutely, but they need flexibility in this environment.”

Estrada also urges small businesses to be patient.

“More programs are coming but we need time. This is a situation we have never experienced,” she said.  “Wash your hands, be safe, social distance, and apply for assistance.”

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