Fla. Notes ‘Bridge Loans’ Available Following Charley

August 25, 2004

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush has announced the activation of Florida’s Small Business Emergency ‘Bridge Loan’ Program to provide emergency, short-term loans to businesses located in counties most severely impacted by Hurricane Charley. Applications are currently available in Charlotte and Lee counties, with additional counties to follow later next week.

“Hurricane Charley impacted every aspect of the communities it hit, including the thousands of small businesses located there and the employees who work in them,” Gov. Bush said. “A vital part of our recovery from the devastation of Hurricane Charley will be the quick revitalization of our small businesses. By offering an immediate source of cash flow for businesses most in need, these short-term loans can serve as a bridge from being “Out of operation” to ‘We’re back in business’! “

The state’s emergency bridge loan program is designed to provide a source of expedient cash flow to businesses impacted by a major catastrophe, enabling them to quickly begin repairs, replace inventory, keep employees on the payroll, etc. The short-term loans are intended to “bridge the gap” between the time a major catastrophe hits, and when a business has secured other resources like sufficient profits from revived business, receipt of payments on insurance claims, secured longer-term loans to include U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster loans, to operate successfully.

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, and most recently, Hurricane Georges.

Short-term loans of up to $25,000 will be available to owners of small businesses in counties most impacted by Hurricane Charley. 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 Charley, and have verifiable, physical damage to their business.

Each county administers its own bridge loan program, in direct cooperation with the State of Florida, Enterprise Florida Inc., and local participating banks. 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. Intended to be an agile process, the time from application through closing of loans can be as little as 72 hours.

While not yet operational, additional bridge loan programs will be set up by in De Soto, Hardee, Highlands, Osceola, and Polk counties over the week ahead.

To obtain applications or information on the Lee County program, go to www.leecountybusiness.com. To obtain loan applications or information on the Charlotte County program, e-mail: PureEconomics@charlottecountyfl.com.

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