SBA assists island businesses with red tide losses

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Mike Swartz, front, customer service representative for the Small Business Administration, and Deidra Larkins of the Manatee County Economic Development Division, process paperwork Sept. 12. The SBA has opened an outreach center at the Island Library, 5701 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach, to assist business owners with red tide issues. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

The Small Business Administration is operating a disaster loan outreach center at the Island Library in Holmes Beach.

“They asked us where it should go and we told them: Anna Maria Island is the epicenter of the red tide crisis in Manatee County. Put it on the island,” Bruno Kapacinskas said Sept. 11.

Kapacinskas is the business resource manager for Manatee County’s office of redevelopment and economic opportunity.

Along with county workers, Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce members and volunteers, he undertook a Sept. 7 door-to-door information tour on the island. Three days later, the SBA center opened in a meeting room at the Island Library, 5701 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach.

Applications and information were distributed, encouraging business owners to register online at floridadisaster.biz. Doing so helps local governments give the federal government real numbers of those needing assistance and also helps free up federal funds.

New loans are available on the heels of the state disaster money and the short-term 180-day bridge loans offered in mid-August. The Economic Injury Disaster Loans, or EIDLs, make federal working capital loans to small businesses and most nonprofit organizations to meet ordinary and necessary financial obligations.

SBA representatives are offering loans to qualifying businesses of up to $2 million in working capital. Applicants must have a credit history acceptable to the SBA, show ability to repay the loan and provide collateral on EIDL loans exceeding $25,000.

The loans carry 2.5-4 percent interest rates, depending on qualifying and are long-term loans with up to 30-year repayment terms.

Similar centers were set up in Sarasota and Lee counties. Officials report the Anna Maria Island location has been the busiest, assisting more than two dozen people in the first three days of operation.

Business owners are urged to complete paperwork, while decisions to take advantage of the loans can be delayed. The deadline to apply for the SBA red tide money is June 4, 2019.

“The business owners can have all the paperwork ready to push the button,” Kapacinskas said. “Then, if it turns out they won’t need the funds, nothing’s lost. If they do need it later, they are ready to go.”

The door-to-door information team took to the streets again Sept. 12 in another push to spread information, this time working a stretch of businesses in Bradenton Beach, Cortez and Palma Sola and up Manatee Avenue in west Bradenton.

“It’s important that our business community knows we are here and we will stay here until we are finished. We are all in this crisis together,” Kapacinskas said.

But he had reservations about how long the SBA center might be open on the island.

“Florence is coming and they are the SBA,” he said Sept. 11.

“They go where they are needed, when they are needed. Right now, we have a couple of guys here with laptops ready to help. Next week, they may have to be in North Carolina or elsewhere. Who knows?” Kapacinskas added.

The SBA outreach center at the Island Library is open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday..

For more information, call the SBA disaster assistance customer service at 800-659-2955 or go online to SBA.gov.

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