COVID-19 Assistance programs: What’s available and where to apply

By: Manuel Pila

Economic Developer

City of Doral

 Para leer en Español

The COVID-19 crisis is hitting South Florida’s economy hard. But a variety of programs are available to help businesses get through this challenging time frame, and aid is now actively flowing back into the business community. Since the outset of this crisis, the City of Doral has been communicating daily with businesses, residents and institutional partners at the local, county, state and federal level to provide the most up-to-date information to the community and connect those in need to important resources. The city has been reaching out to survey businesses, sharing special offers with residents, and posting pertinent information on social media and on its website: www.CityofDoral.com.

Below are just a few of the ways you can access aid for your family or your business. Please note that the details regarding many of the available aid programs are changing frequently, and new programs are still being announced. For updated information, keep checking the city’s COVID-19 Coronavirus Updates informational site at https://www.cityofdoral.com/police/covid-19-coronavirus-updates/

Local Support

Spend Local, Save Local

Restaurants and the hospitality industry were among the first businesses to take a major hit from the emergency procedures put in place to protect the public. The City of Doral has been reaching out to restaurants from the outset of the pandemic to gather and share restaurant delivery and takeout deals through emails, on social media on the city’s website. Businesses located in the city are invited to provide special deals to the community through our Spend Local, Save Local program, accessible at https://www.cityofdoral.com/businesses/local-discounts/. Doral businesses with a valid Business Tax Receipt can participate by registering online and offering a discount on products and/or services to residents. Participation will give exposure to local businesses, while helping our local economy, and registration is easy. Residents or workers in Doral businesses can download the Spend Local Card at https://www.cityofdoral.com/businesses/local-discounts/.

Miami Eats

The city has been working with the Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) to promote the new restaurant program, Miami Eats. The goal is to help restaurants and their employees by asking Miami-Dade County residents to please consider ordering out when possible while taking advantage of some great deals. The program is free to any restaurant in the county regardless of location or price point. To participate, restaurants can register at https://www.miamiandbeaches.com/miamieats.

Operation Helping Hands/Miami Pandemic Response Fund

The city is also working with the GMCVB and United Way to inform our community about the launch of Operation Helping Hands and the Miami Pandemic Response Fund. The Greater Miami Convention and Visitors Bureau and other anchor organizations have joined United Way of Miami-Dade and a slew of organizations to activate Operation Helping Hands, an emergency response initiative to raise funds and recruit volunteers to help with crisis recovery and relief efforts.

A powerful collective of local partner funders have joined this response effort to establish the Miami Pandemic Response Fund. The Fund will support struggling families with emergency needs including rent/mortgage assistance, food, medication, utilities as well as issue micro-grants to small businesses. To learn more about the fund, visit www.unitedwaymiami.org/covid19.

State of Florida

Florida’s Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program

At the state level, the Economic Development division is working closely with the SBDC @ FIU to inform local companies about the Florida Emergency Bridge Loan program. Florida’s Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program is now offering quick relief to small businesses impacted by COVID-19.  These short-term, interest-free working capital loans are intended to “bridge the gap” in an emergency until a business has secured longer-term recovery resources.

  • Amount: Up to $50,000 per eligible small business.  Loans of up to $100,000 may be made in special cases as warranted by the need of the eligible small business.
  • Term: 1 year.
  • Limitation: Only one loan may be made per eligible business. All previous bridge loans received MUST be paid in full.
  • Interest Rate: Loans will be interest-free for the loan term (1 year). The Interest rate will be 12% per annum on the unpaid balance thereafter.
  • Application Period: Applications will be accepted by qualified Florida small businesses under this program through May 8, 2020, contingent on the availability of funds.

Funds from these loans are already reaching companies in Doral and the surrounding area. Don’t wait, as these funds are going fast. Eligible Florida companies can apply at https://floridadisasterloan.org.

Short Time Compensation Program

The DEO’s Short-Time Compensation Program is a voluntary employer program designed to help employers maintain their staff by reducing the weekly working hours during temporary slowdowns instead of temporarily laying off employees. If your employer establishes a Short-Time Compensation Plan and you meet the qualifications to file an reemployment assistance claim in the state of Florida, you will receive a partial reemployment check to supplement your reduced paycheck. Employers can apply at http://www.floridajobs.org/Reemployment-Assistance-Service-Center/reemployment-assistance/employers/short-time-compensation

Federal Relief

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans

In Florida, disasters usually take the form of hurricanes, and SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans have traditionally been available for businesses affected by major storms. Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has adapted its existing disaster relief program to provide low-interest disaster loans to help businesses and homeowners recover from economic impact of the Coronavirus.

The SBA is offering designated states and territories low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Apply for assistance:  https://disasterloan.sba.gov. For questions, please contact the SBA disaster assistance customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

CARES Act

Here at the City of Doral, we are constantly monitoring the government’s response to this situation. The roll-out of the CARES Act has led to many questions that have challenged even the institutions charged with administering the programs. Doral’s City Attorney has reviewed the program and provided a summary of relevant points in the economic stimulus package, known formally as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act but more commonly referred to as the CARES Act.

Please note, this law is expansive, this is a very general overview, and the details are still changing almost daily at this point. The SBA COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan Application process begins at https://covid19relief.sba.gov/.

Payroll Protection Program (SBA Loans) & Forgiveness

Arguably, the most relevant portion of the bill provides for Small Business Administration loans to businesses with less than 500 employees. The law provides $350,000,000,000.00 be set aside for these guaranteed loans. Loan amounts will be available to the lesser of (i) the average monthly payroll multiplied by two point five (2.5) or (ii) $10,000,000.00. Loan terms are, generally, a ten-year maturity at four percent interest per annum.

The maximum you can borrow is 250 percent of your average monthly payroll expenses up to 10 million. Sole proprietors, independent contractors, gig economy workers and self-employed individuals are all eligible. There are no collateral requirements and the loans will be non-recourse. The law also waives the traditional SBA “credit elsewhere” requirement, which means that business with access to alternative avenues of credit can still apply for these loans under this Payroll Protection Program.

These loans are available to cover general business expenses including payroll, salaries, mortgage payments, rent, utilities and any other debt obligations. All business that apply are presumed to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill provides for loan forgiveness for amounts used to cover payroll, interest on a covered mortgage, rent, and utilities from February 15, 2020 to June 30, 2020.

The law also provides a forgiveness safe harbor for employers that have already reduced their workforces. If by June 30, 2020, an employer restores their number of full-time equivalent employees to the number they maintained in between (i) February 15, 2019 to June 30, 2019 or (ii) January 1, 2020, to February 29, 2020, they will still be eligible for full loan forgiveness.

You will not have to pay fees on the loan, and collateral requirements and personal guarantees are waived. Loan payments will be deferred for at least six months and up to one year starting at the origination of the loan. You are eligible to apply until June 30th, 2020.

You must apply for forgiveness with the lender servicing the loan. Lenders have 60 days to review and make a determination after receiving the application and supporting documentation. The loan is forgiven at the end of the eight-week period. Any portion of the loan that is forgiven will be excluded from gross income.

You can apply at any lending institution approved to make SBA loans. This could be the bank you already use, or a nearby bank. You can call your bank or find SBA approved lenders in Doral through SBA’s online Lender Match tool https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/lender-match

We will be updating our website with information identifying lenders making SBA loans. You can also apply for a loan online — The SBA COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan Applications are at https://covid19relief.sba.gov/.

If you do not have access to a computer or smartphone, you can reach the SBA at the following number 1?800?659?2955 for assistance.

Individual Credits & Rebates

The law provides for immediate tax relief for individuals by providing a credit of $1,200 for individuals and $2,400 in the case of a joint return. There is an additional credit of $500 per dependent. This credit is reduced if your adjusted gross income exceeds $75,000.00 This credit is presumed to have been paid and earned from a previous year and the bill instructs the Secretary to expedite advance refunds to eligible taxpayers.

Unemployment Benefits

The law provides that in addition to state unemployment benefits, the federal government will contribute an additional $600 per week to eligible individuals. The law also expands unemployment benefits for individuals that may have exhausted their unemployment benefits prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Business Provisions

For business that elects not to apply for a Payroll Protection Program loan, the law provides for a tax credit equal to fifty percent (50%) of the qualified wages. Please consult with a tax professional. The law also provides for a delay in the payment of payroll taxes until December 31, 2021, and December 31, 2022.

Distressed Sectors of the Economy

The bill allocated $500,000,000,000.00 for direct loans from the Department of the Treasury. Procedures for applying for these loans will be published within 10 days. These loans are available for business that employee between 500 and 10,000 employees. Interest rates are no higher than two percent per annum. These loans are subject to numerous conditions, like limitations on highly compensated individuals, stock buybacks, and guarantees regarding the restoration or preservation of a workforce.

Moratorium on Residential Evictions

The law places a 120-day moratorium on evictions, which includes properties backed by a federal guaranteed mortgage loan and prohibits the charging of late fees or penalties for the nonpayment of rent.

The SBA COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan Applications are at https://covid19relief.sba.gov/

I hope this is useful. In speaking to all of the organizations involved in these assistance programs, the advice for companies has been consistent: if you are eligible, don’t wait to apply! We’ll be reaching out by email and by phone to get in touch with many companies in the city. Please take the opportunity to let us know how we can help.

Feel free to reach out to let me know how you are weathering this crisis, or to ask any questions. We’ll do our best to get you an answer as soon as possible. Meanwhile, stay safer at home, and we’ll all get through this soon.

For more information, feel free to contact Economic Developer, Manuel Pila, at Manuel.Pila@CityofDoral.com

 

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