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Loan program for South Cape businesses approved

By Staff | May 28, 2020

The Community Redevelopment Agency has unanimously approved a $300,000 loan program to help businesses in the South Cape pay their mortgages or rent.

The CRA Board. during its May 5 meeting. discussed putting together a loan program to assist South Cape businesses impacted during the pandemic. On Wednesday, the board narrowed down exactly what it wanted to do with it.

Out of the more than 700 businesses in the district, 168 were deemed eligible to apply for the loan, including restaurants, beauty salons and merchant retail stores. At the meeting, six tattoo parlors were included.

Ineligible businesses include nationals/chains, home-based businesses and essential businesses not forced to close.

The maximum loan amount is $5,000 for up to three months of rent or mortgage payments for those for-profit businesses within the boundaries of the CRA. Those payments will be made directly to the landlord or mortgage company.

Businesses that apply for this loan can apply for other loans. The loan is interest free and forgivable if the business stays in the South Cape for three years. If the business stays for two years, the loan is 50 percent forgivable, and 25 percent if the business stays for one year.

The loans will be issued on a first-come, first-served basis. It is believed that not everybody will apply for the loan, as some will decide they don’t need it or they have already folded.

Letters will go out to qualifying businesses Monday. The CRA is hoping to get additional help from the news media to get the word out over the next week.

Staff is working to finalize process, logistics and other details related to the launch of the program.

The program will be launched and applications will be accepted from June 8 to 12. The responses and funds will be evaluated and the next steps will be determined June 13 to 21.

In the event there is still money left after the first round of loans, there could be a second round offered, which could include essential businesses and non-profits such as the Southwest Florida Military Museum. Those who have received a grant will not be eligible again.

Ralph Santillo, founder of the museum and Invest in American Veterans, spoke during public input about their dilemma. The museum has lost $40,000 in event income and the few part time workers they have are afraid to come to work. The few visitors they get are usually in the 70- and 80-year-old range.