Guide to small business relief during COVID-19

Small business help guide
Variety of resources ready to support businesses impacted by COVID-19

Across the state unemployment is on the rise as small businesses cut back their staff or close doors completely due to COVID-19 and government orders.
New resources at the local, state and federal level can help, but navigating which resources are best for a particular business can be overwhelming. Small business consultant Ayesha Haider said she understands the concern. Haider works for the Small Business Development Center at UWF (SBDC), a free consulting service for local businesses with fewer than 500 employees.
Here’s a breakdown of the help available:

Loan Programs
Name: Florida Emergency Bridge Loan Program
Who administers it: Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
Amount available: Up to $50,000 ($100,000 under special circumstances)
Eligibility: 2 to 100 employees
Deadline: May 8
Do I have to pay it back? Yes
Interest rate: 0%, 12-month maturity
Haider said these loans are the short-term option for businesses in need of quick support. The loan is interest free for 12 months.
“But after 12 months you are considered in default and the interest rate is 12%,” she said.
She advised businesses only apply for this loan if they are certain they will be able to pay it back in a year.

Name: Economic Injury Disaster Loan
Who administers it: U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA)
Amount available: Up to $2 million
Eligibility: Less than 500 employees
Deadline: Sept. 30
Do I have to pay it back? Yes
Interest rate: 3.75%, 30-year maturity
Commonly called an EIDL, Haider said these loans are more long term but also may take longer to process.
“What we recommend people do is apply for the bridge loan, then apply for the EIDL and use those funds to pay back the bridge loan,” Haider said.
That way businesses can get quick assistance but avoid the high interest rate on the bridge loans. Haider reemphasized that despite potential loan forgiveness for EIDLs, small business owners should never take out a loan they are not confident they can pay back.

Name: Paycheck Protection Program (CARES Act)
Who administers it: Banks on behalf of SBA
Amount available: Up to 250% of monthly payroll with exceptions
Eligibility: Less than 500 employees
Deadline: June 30
Do I have to pay it back? Maybe, see forgiveness below
Interest rate: 1%, 2-year maturity, payments deferred for 6 months
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a new program created by the federal CARES Act. Daniel Harrell is an attorney with Clark Partington, specializing in employment law. Harrell addressed questions about PPP during a Studer Community Institute webinar last week.
“It is meant to give businesses in essence about two and half months of payroll,” he said.
There is an exception. Individual employee payrolls are capped at $100,000 when making the monthly calculation.
PPP loans will be handled through SBA preferred banks and require documentation of payroll expenses, tax filings, lease or mortgage, utility bills and any other documents demonstrating need, loss and payroll costs. Business owners should contact their accountants before filing for assistance.
“This is still a very new program, and new details are still coming out. Get in touch with your banker,” Haider said.
Harrell advised business owners to have all their documentation ready when they go to the bank to file for PPP funds.
Loan forgiveness: According to the SBA’s website, PPP loans will be forgiven if:
1. Employees are kept on payroll for eight weeks
2. Funds are used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest or utilities
3. At least 75% of funds went toward payroll costs
Harrell advised that keeping detailed documentation of spending of these funds will better position businesses to have their loan forgiven.

Grant programs
Name: Santa Rosa County Small Business COVID-19 Recovery Grant
Who administers it: Small Business Development Center
Amount available: Up to $2,500
Eligibility: Less than 20 employees
Deadline: April 13 at 5 p.m.
Do I have to pay it back? No
These grants are available to for-profit companies in Santa Rosa County that have a physical store front and were profitable prior to the COVID-19 outbreak. They were made possible by a $100,000 allocation of county funds.
“The best thing people can do right now is go on the website and look to see do you qualify and start getting the backup documentation together,” Haider said.
To apply for the grant, first go to and select “Request SBDC Consulting.” Complete the online request form. Remember to identify “SRC COVID-19 Grant” by name in the request form.
Then, download the Santa Rosa County Small Business COVID-19 Recovery Grant Application at, complete and sign the application, and gather all supporting documents. Email completed and signed applications, as well as supporting documents, all in PDF format to Haider at

Name: Northwest Florida Small Business COVID-19 Recovery Grant
Who administers it: Small Business Development Center
Amount available: Up to $5,000
Eligibility: 2 to 10 employees
Deadline: April 14 at 5 p.m.
Do I have to pay it back? No
Made possible by a $250,000 donation from Gulf Power, this grant program will be available to assist small businesses across Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Jackson, Washington, Calhoun, and Bay counties.
Additional business eligibility requirements for this grant include:
n Must be able to demonstrate a 25% or greater sales decrease due to the effects of COVID-19
n Business must be a for-profit, privately held small business that was established on or before Jan. 1, 2019
Haider pointed out that those receiving this grant will not be eligible for the Santa Rosa County Small Business COVID-19 Recovery Grant. She advised that businesses should apply for both for the best chance of receiving one of the grants.

If small business owners still have questions or concerns after reviewing the listed websites for these resources, Haider recommends they reach out to the SDBC for free consulting services. Call 850-586-7802 or email

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