In the wake of Hurricane Irma, St. Johns County's business community seems to have suffered less damage and is rebounding faster than it did a year ago after Matthew.
However, many of you still suffered damage. There are businesses that have not been able to reopen, and certainly many of you are experiencing economic hardship as many of your businesses have suffered decreases in revenue.
In this article, I’ll walk you through some of the most widely used and helpful “tools” you can use as we continue to bounce back. But before we get to that, remember to fill out the disaster assessment survey at the Florida Virtual Business Emergency Operations Center (FLVBEOC) at http://flvbeoc.org/index.php if your businesses suffered any damage related to the hurricane, even if it is seemingly insignificant relative to previous disasters. This information is used to determine the needs and level of assistance needed for impacted businesses throughout our area.
Employers experiencing loss of revenue, physical damage
Emergency Bridge Loan
The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) recently launched the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan program to help businesses get back on their feet.
The bridge loan program supports those impacted by Hurricane Irma by providing short-term, interest-free loans up to $50,000 to small businesses that experienced physical or economic damage during the storm. Applications for this program must be completed by Oct. 31, 2017.
Apply online at www.floridadisasterloan.org. For more information about the bridge loan, call the Florida Small Business Development Center Network at (850) 898-3489 or email Disaster@FloridaSBDC.org. You can also contact our local representative Marge Cirillo at (800) 450-4624 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) program provides assistance to businesses and residents whose employment or self-employment was lost or interrupted as a result of Hurricane Irma. Apply today at https://goo.gl/sLLFyK.
Long Term Disaster Assistance Loan
For a longer-term loan, consider applying for a SBA (Small Business Administration) Loan. The U.S. Small Business Administration has declared St. Johns, Duval, Flagler and Putnam county businesses and private nonprofit organizations eligible for both Physical and Economic Injury Disaster Loans up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster-damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery, equipment, inventory and other business assets. Interest rates are as low as 3.305 percent for businesses and 2.5 percent for nonprofit organizations with terms up to 30 years. The deadline to apply for physical property damage is Nov. 9, 2017, and the deadline to apply for economic injury is June 11, 2018. Apply online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.
Employers whose employees are not back to work
Dislocated Worker Program
Dislocated Worker Grants are awarded to local workforce offices for temporary employment to workers affected by major dislocations, including Hurricane Irma.
Disaster relief employment can be in the form of temporary jobs to address structural and humanitarian needs of residents of an area that has suffered a federally declared emergency or major disaster. Connect with your workforce office here: http://www.careersourcenortheastflorida.com/.
Register for Disaster Assistance
Residents who sustained losses can apply for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.
Residents who suffered damages from the storm should register now; the application will be processed automatically. Please share this information with your employees who may have suffered losses from Hurricane Irma.
Many, if not most of you, were prepared for Irma and thanks to your preparation, we have now been able to adjust our focus from helping businesses recover from physical damage to helping them recover from the economic injury caused by a disaster.
Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA)
FEMA may provide TSA to eligible disaster survivors who are unable to return to their homes and have a continuing need for shelter after the congregate shelters have closed.
This initiative is intended to provide short-term lodging for eligible disaster survivors whose communities are either uninhabitable or inaccessible due to disaster-related damages. Find out more here: https://www.fema.gov/transitional-shelter-assistance.
Individuals and Households Program
FEMA’s Individuals and Households Program (IHP) provides financial and direct services to eligible individuals and households affected by a disaster who have uninsured or underinsured necessary expenses and serious needs.
Eligible expenses include rental assistance, lodge expense reimbursement, home repair assistance, personal property assistance, transportation, etc. IHP is not a substitute for insurance and cannot compensate for all losses caused by a disaster. Rather, it is intended to meet the survivor’s basic needs and supplement disaster recovery efforts. Read more about the Individuals and Households Program at https://goo.gl/1q51z7.
Finally, I want to thank Florida Power & Light (FPL) and JEA, who have worked diligently across our state to return power to their customers. The pre-hurricane preparations and hard work by thousands to restore our electricity after Irma have gone a long way toward helping us get back to business!