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Disaster relief for individuals and small businesses available after Irma

Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program (DEO)

Governor Rick Scott activated the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program to support small businesses impacted by Hurricane Irma.

The bridge loan program, managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), will provide short-term, interest-free loans to small businesses that experienced physical or economic damage during the storm.  Bridge loans provide working capital to “bridge the gap” between the time a major catastrophe hits and when a business has secured longer term recovery resources, including payment of insurance claims or longer-term Small Business Administration loans. Up to $10 million has been allocated for the program.

DEO is currently surveying businesses in the affected counties. To access the business survey, please click HERE and select “Hurricane Irma” from the drop-down menu. Response to the damage assessment is not an application for assistance, so businesses that fill out the survey and are interested in the bridge loan program must fill out a bridge loan application as well.

Small business owners with two to 100 employees located in any of Florida’s 67 counties affected by Hurricane Irma can apply for short-term loans up to $25,000. These interest-free loans are granted in terms of 90 or 180 days. To be eligible, a business must have been established prior to Sept. 4, 2017, and demonstrate economic injury or physical damage as a result of Hurricane Irma.

To complete an application by the Oct. 31, 2017 deadline, or for more information on the program, visit www.floridadisasterloan.org.

For questions regarding the Emergency Bridge Loan Program, contact the Florida Small Business Development Center Network at 850-898-3489 or email [email protected]. The phone line will be answered during regular business hours; all voice mails and emails will be responded to within 24 hours.

SBA Loans

Small Business Administration (SBA)  loans are also available for larger amounts and longer terms.

Small businesses, agricultural cooperatives, businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private, nonprofit organizations of all sizes suffering substantial economic injury may be eligible for a U.S. SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan of up to $2 million to meet necessary financial obligations – expenses the business would have paid if the disaster had not occurred.

The online SBA Disaster Loan application can be accessed at: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Grants for Individuals

If you live in one of the disaster-designated Florida counties and experienced property damage or loss directly caused by Hurricane Irma, register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for disaster assistance – even if you have insurance. This can be an important step to begin the process of recovery.

You may register for assistance the following ways:

  • Online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov
  • If you don’t have Internet access, you can call 800-621-3362.
    • People who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY should call 800-462-7585.
    • For those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 800-621-3362.
    • These toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. (EST) seven days a week until further notice.

FEMA assistance for individuals may include grants for rent, temporary housing and home repairs to their primary residences, as well as funding for other serious disaster-related needs, such as medical, dental or funeral costs. If you have insurance, FEMA may still be able to assist with disaster-related expenses that were underinsured or not covered by your policy.

What to Expect

After you apply, a FEMA inspector will contact you to schedule an inspection. The inspection generally takes 30-40 minutes or less and consists of a general verification of your disaster-related losses and a review of ownership or residence records. There is no fee for the inspection.

When a FEMA housing inspector comes to visit your home, be sure they show you proper identification. All FEMA inspectors have prominent photo identification badges. If you suspect someone is posing as a FEMA housing inspector, call our toll-free Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, or call local law enforcement officials.

Once the inspection process is complete, your situation will be reviewed by FEMA. You will receive a letter by email or physical mail, depending on your preference, which outlines the decision about your claim. For more information about the inspection process, and documentation you will need to provide the inspector, visit the FEMA Individual Assistance Inspection Process page.

Know that you may receive a visit from more than one inspector throughout the recovery process. In addition to FEMA housing inspectors, representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration, state and local officials and inspectors for private insurance coverage also visit neighborhoods in affected areas.

For more recovery information visit FEMA’s Hurricane Irma web page at www.fema.gov/hurricane-irma.

IRS Tax Relief

The IRS is now offering expanded relief to any area designated by FEMA as qualifying for either individual assistance or public assistance in the State of Florida. This represents all 67 counties of Florida. Victims of Hurricane Irma that took place beginning on Sept. 4, 2017 in parts of Florida may qualify for tax relief from the Internal Revenue Service.

The President has declared that a major disaster exists in the State of Florida. The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area.

For instance, certain deadlines falling on or after Sept. 4, 2017 and before Jan. 31, 2018, are granted additional time to file through Jan. 31, 2018. This includes taxpayers who had a valid extension to file their 2016 return that was due to run out on Oct. 16, 2017.

It also includes the quarterly estimated income tax payments originally due on Sept. 15, 2017 and Jan. 16, 2018, and the quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due on Oct. 31, 2017. It also includes tax-exempt organizations that operate on a calendar-year basis and had an automatic extension due to run out on Nov. 15, 2017.

In addition, penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due on or after Sept. 4, 2017, and before Sept. 19, 2017, will be abated as long as the deposits are made by Sept. 19, 2017.

For more information visit https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-relief-for-victims-of-hurricane-irma-in-florida

David Volz
David Volz
David Volz has been a reporter for Hollywood Gazette since 2011 and has worked for numerous community news publications throughout South Florida over the past two decades including the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Miami Herald and South Florida Business Journal. He is a Professor in the Business department at Broward College and the editor of the Coral Springs Connection, an online community news website. He covers city government, schools, sports events, cultural activities, faith groups and workplaces.

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