On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded, killing eleven workers and injuring several others. It also caused a sea-floor oil gusher, which has caused a massive oil spill. The spill, which has been called the largest offshore spill in United States history, resulted in hundreds of millions of gallons of oil polluting the Gulf of Mexico. Several governors of states along the Gulf Coast declared a state of emergency, as did the federal government. Marine life and wildlife habitats have been harmed, as have many small businesses.
Fishing was banned in about one-third of the Gulf by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and people canceled their vacations. BP gave the state of Florida $25 million to help promote their beaches, which were said to be unaffected by the oil spill. Hotels offered discounts and free deals and packages. Even so, a University of Central Florida economist called the spill, "the worst disaster in the history of Florida tourism." It is estimated that Florida's Paradise Coast could lose $3 billion in revenue this year.
However, the United States Small Business Administration has announced that it will be helping several of Florida's small businesses. The SBA is offering loans and loan defermention options to fishing-related businesses who were shut down due to the oil spill. Hope is that the loans and deferments will provide temporary assistance to "overcome the loss of revenue" they have experienced this spring and summer.
Many Florida counties are included: Bay, Citrus, Collier, Dixie, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Hernando, Hillsborough, Jefferson, Lee, Levy, Manatee, Monroe, Okaloosa, Pasco, Pinellas, Santa Rosa, Sarasota, Taylor and Walton. The adjacent counties of Alachua, Broward, Calhoun, Charlotte, Desoto, Gilchrist, Glades, Hardee, Hendry, Holmes, Jackson, Lafayette, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Marion, Miami-Dade, Polk, Sumter, Wakulla, and Washington. Some Alabama and Georgia counties are included, as well.
The program will offer working capital loans for up to $2 million at 3% interest for non-profit organizations and 4% for businesses with terms up to 30 years. Loans can be used to make payroll, pay debts, accounts payable, and other bills that have been impacted by the oil spill. The SBA is also encouraging small businesses to file claims with BP.
Fishing, shrimping, crabbing, and oyster fishing who fish in the waters that have been shut down are among the main businesses being targeted. Other small businesses that are dependent on shrimp, crabs, and oysters are included, too. Also, businesses who supply fishing gear and fuel, docks, boatyards, processors, wholesalers, shippers, retailers, and other businesses that rely on recreational and sports fishing can get involved.
If you're a small business in any of the Florida counties mentioned above and you think you may qualify for assistance, contact the SBA's Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955. The deadline to return applications is February 14, 2011.
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