SARASOTA –– A program to assist small businesses in the county struggling during the COVID-19 crisis will begin accepting applications Monday.
That’s the good news.
The bad news: as of Friday morning, 950 potential applicants had asked to be notified when they could submit applications for loans up to $25,000 from the county’s economic development incentive fund that has a total of $4.3 million.
And that money could fly out the door fast as the Economic Development Corporation, which is administering the program for the county, will accept and review applications on a first come-first serve basis.
Sarasota County commissioners, who spent about an hour at their Wednesday meeting reviewing and making tweaks to the program, recognized that and wanted to assist as many businesses as possible.
To that end, Commission Chairman Mike Moran got his colleagues to go along with an eligibility requirement that only businesses with fewer than 50 employees could receive a loan.
Businesses must also submit a county business tax receipt with a Sarasota County address for the past three years, a copy of their federal payroll protection program application along with a county application for a loan.
Successful applicants can receive up to $25,000 with no interest or payments for the first year. After that first year, the loans will carry an interest rate of 3.5 percent for the next three years at which time the loan is repayable in full. However, if 80 percent of the loan amount is repaid before the end of the first year, the remainder of the loan will be converted to a grant with no repayment required.
Dave Bullock, interim CEO of the EDC told commissioners that he has a team of 20 volunteers set to review the applications to ensure eligibility and completeness before they are sent to the county for disbursement of funds.
In making tweaks, commissioners reiterated their commitment to reserving 35 slots for eligible daycare centers, a facet of the program they set when they first approved it on April 8.
Details about the small business resiliency program are available on the EDC’s website at www.edcsarasotacounty.com.