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State's emergency bridge loan program is done after helping only 1,000 small businesses

In a release over the weekend, the department said 1,000 received assistance. And 38,000 applied.
Credit: AP
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to reporters at the state emergency operations center in Tallahassee, Fla., Saturday, March 14, 2020. The governor on Saturday banned most visits to nursing homes statewide as he acknowledged the coronavirus has likely spread into the general population. Meanwhile, officials closed world-famous South Beach to prevent college spring breakers from congregating. (AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program has been used up.

In a release over the weekend, the department said 1,000 received assistance. And 38,000 applied.

Roni Turner, who owns a business in Sanford, is one of many who are frustrated and wondering if they will get help, or if they are out of luck.

“The only thing that keeps me with a smile on my face is knowing that I'm not in it alone. I'm trying to be very patient, stay positive, but I'm scared and I know a lot of people are as well," Turner said.

One of those people helping businesses navigate confusing application questions or understand what programs they need to apply for is Jason Brodeur, CEO of the Seminole County Chamber of Commerce.

"There's been a lot of bottleneck I would say of accessing that money that's been allotted," Brodeur said.

"What the bridge loan program did was give out money until it ran out of money and it can't print any more. Until the legislature reconvenes and re-authorizes more money, it's gone,” Brodeur said, “What I would encourage folks to do is to continue to look for the resource pages that are available to help better understand what’s available at the federal level. The state level, look for the legislature to reconvene to authorize more spending of our rainy day fund."

State Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-47) said Gov. DeSantis has the authority to add more money. She said she's still trying to find out answers herself.

"It's been a hot mess for weeks," she said.

Eskamani and others have petitioned DeSantis, asking him to address the issues.

"Funding the program, providing an additional 450 million dollars to the program, adding more staff to the program," Eskamani said.

WESH 2 News did not receive responses to our questions on Wednesday from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, and, currently, a path forward remains unclear.

"Florida is giving away half a billion dollars back to the state's largest corporations this month and only giving fifty million to our small businesses. The money that we're giving back to our state's largest corporations, is five times more than what we allocate to our small businesses during this pandemic and that's quite telling," Eskamani said.

In a news release, the Department of Economic Opportunity asked small business owners to look into other measures: “Governor DeSantis and DEO are encouraging businesses to utilize other state and federal business loan resources that are currently available to Florida businesses.”

Brodeur and Eskamani both contend that the federal programs available for help have also faced problems.

Read more from our news partners at WESH.

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