By Jacob Ogles, Editor
Democrats in the Florida Legislature called for more funding to be put in the state’s Small Business Emergency Loan Program and for the federal government to better fund the Paycheck Protection Program created by the CARES Act.
“I don’t think there was parity in how those bridge loans were distributed, and obviously we need more money in the Paycheck Protection Program,” said state Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville.
The state Senate Majority Leader said there needs to be a replenishment of a fund that provided loans for 1,000 Florida businesses since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic but which ran out of funding before it could provide for 37,000 other small businesses.
The state had $50 million budgeted for bridge loans, which if not repaid within a year have steep interest rates trigger. The intent of the loans is to help businesses impacted by disasters outside their control to keep doors open.
State Rep. Margaret Good, D-Sarasota said in an online press conference she wants more loans directed toward mom-and-pop shops with less than 10 employees on payroll.
“It’s important we provide an avenue to ensure small local businesses get the help they need,” she said.
Republicans control both the House and Senate, and any legislation would also need support from Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. So there will need to be bipartisan support for any effort to be implemented this year.
State Rep. Anna Eskamani. D-Orlando, said it’s important funding go to small businesses in particular. She and Good both expressed concern bailout money at the state and federal level was ended up with corporations who have access to other forms of private debt.
Eskamani also stressed state and federal officials need to communicate in a more timely fashion with applicants about why they will or will not get economic assistance or relief.
Lawmakers said Economic Injury Disaster Loans have worked marginally better than the Paycheck Protection Program or state bridge loans. But all programs will need more funding to provide needed economic support during the continued economic fallout from the COVID-19 epidemic.