Beacon Council sets workshops on loans for Wilma recovery
By Claudio Mendonça
Miami-Dade County's economic development arm, the Beacon Council, is holding two workshops today (11/10) on $5 million in interest-free loans that Gov. Jeb Bush authorized last week for small businesses hit by Hurricane Wilma.
"We are using these business-assistance workshops to answer any kind of questions," said Frank Nero, council president and CEO. "The idea of these funds is to bridge the gap with temporary, short-term financial support until businesses start receiving federal assistance funds."
"These funds are directed toward businesses such as a restaurant, a flower shop and a small pharmacy, for companies that experienced financial losses during power outages, had inventory backed up and not enough capital," he said.
Broward and Palm Beach counties were awarded $5 million each in bridge loan funds.
The Beacon Council had requested $10 million for the program. Mr. Nero, however, believes $5 million should be enough - at least for now.
A consortium of six financial institutions - Citibank, SunTrust, Community Bank of Florida, Regions Bank, Ocean Bank and BankUnited - is developing a committee for the bridge loans, working with the Beacon Council and federal and state agencies to evaluate damage criteria.
"Banks will be doing property site inspection in conjunction with agencies," said Bernard Adrover, director of small business for BankUnited.
"The emergency bridge loan program helps small businesses immensely," Mr. Adrover said. "Sometimes it takes 60 to 90 days for companies to receive the insurance checks."
The first workshop is at 10 a.m. at the South Dade regional library, 10750 SW 211th St. The next starts at 4:30 p.m. at the Joseph Caleb Center, 5400 NW 22nd Ave. Officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Small Business Administration and Miami-Dade County building department are to attend.
Loans up to $25,000, depending on damage, are to be interest-free for 90 to 180 days, the Beacon Council said. Only companies more than a year old with two to 100 workers are eligible. They must apply by Dec. 16.
Firms must show need and use loan proceeds to mitigate physical impact of the storm. Recipients must have repaid all previous Florida small business emergency bridge loans.
The Small Business Administration is also using the seminars to explain on how to obtain long-term disaster recovery funds.
Details: the Beacon Council, (305) 579-1300, or www.beaconcouncil.com.