The webinar featured guest speakers Ashley Bell, Esq., regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration for Region IV, and Michael W. Myhre, CEO with Florida SBDC Network Headquarters

Please note there is a 15-second gap before the video begins.

The Orlando Economic Partnership’s top priority is to keep the business community informed and prepared and help individuals and organizations obtain the needed resources currently available as we all navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Responding to COVID-19 Webinar Series: COVID-19 Recovery Assistance is the first installment of a series of webinars focused on sharing guidance on how best to respond to the realities of COVID-19. Participants from the Orlando business community joined Tim Giuliani, president and CEO of the Orlando Economic Partnership, and John Davis, executive vice president of the Orlando Regional Chamber, for a discussion on the guidance and resources available to help the Orlando business community respond to the public health and economic realities of COVID-19.

The webinar featured guest speakers Ashley Bell, Esq., regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration for Region IV, and Michael W. Myhre, CEO with Florida SBDC Network Headquarters, who shared their insight on the federal and state response to COVID-19 with a focus on the impact on businesses.

For detailed information and resources for your business’ response to COVID-19, please visit Online Business Resource Center at

Key Takeaways

America’s small businesses need guidance and support

The SBA in cooperation with Goldman Sachs conducted a poll of small businesses at the onset of the COVID-19 crisis and found:

  • 51 percent of America’s small businesses say they only have 0-3 months of working capital to be able to keep their doors open
  • 96 percent of America’s small businesses have been impacted by the COVID-19 virus
  • 75 percent say their business has been affected and they’re having fewer sales
  • 53 percent of employees do not have the ability to telework
  • 13 percent of American small businesses are confident about their contingency plans to meet the needs of their business
  • 67 percent of small business owners are uncertain about how to access emergency funding

The data echoes why it is so important to be proactive to make sure Orlando small businesses are informed and able to take advantage of these resources.

Florida understands how to respond to disasters

Florida was one of the first states to get the disaster declaration by SBA. Florida understands these disaster programs better than other states because many cities are used to responding to small business disasters as the result of natural events like hurricanes, tornados and flood. The stimulus bill signed by President Trump treats the virus as if it were a hurricane, so the same rules of localized natural disasters apply now to the entire state of Florida. Because of that, Florida is in a better position to respond and one of the most prepared states for a natural disaster to have the least impact on small businesses compared to the rest of the country.

Businesses affected can apply for SBA Loans

Under the disaster declaration, small businesses economically impacted by the COVID-19 virus are eligible to get a loan of up to $2 million through the Small Business Administration. Businesses that can show they have less sales, lack the working capital because of the virus to continue at their full operating pace can apply for the loan that has a rate set quarterly at 3.75 percent. The loan can be accessed at Like normal disasters in the past, that also extends to nonprofits, with an interest rate of 2.75, one point lower than for-profit companies.

No collateral necessary

Businesses looking for a loan of $25,100 or lower won’t be required to put up collateral, similar to signature loans. Anything over that amount will require a conversation about having collateral for those loans. The regulations are changing every day but they’re becoming more lenient, not more stringent. As of right now, SBA is looking at collateral but it’s not a requirement for loans under $25,100. These are working capital and cash-flow loans, based on a business’ ability to repay.

Streamlined process

Because this is a declared disaster, businesses don’t have to go to a bank for an SBA loan. SBA is lending this money directly to businesses. The normal underwriting requirements aren’t necessary. The processing time is to get a business an approval in at least two weeks. However, the Small Business Administration (SBA) recommends working with your current bank to find and apply for the most applicable loan programs for your business before beginning the application process.

Emergency Bridge Loans

One of the most competitive things we have to support the small businesses of Florida is the Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program. The business damage assessment allows the SBDC to collect the data necessary to activate the Bridge Loan and allows businesses to apply for that assistance available from the Small Business Administration.

Quick working capital

The Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan is a short-term loan supported by State of Florida taxpayers for businesses impacted by COVID-19. The program is designed to bring that quick capital to small businesses in order to bridge the gap between the time a disaster hits and when a business has secured long-term recovery assistance. It is a loan and not a grant and, therefore, must be repaid. 


Businesses can borrow up to $50,000 through this program and, in some circumstance, they can go up to 100,000. The applicant of the business is the individual business owner(s). The term of the loan is one year and it is interest free with no collateral necessary. Only one loan is made to eligible businesses and recipients are required to sign an agreement that proceeds of the loan will only for maintaining operations and restarting the business. It’s relatively flexible as it relates to the use of the proceeds.


During the closing process recipients must certify how they will repay the loans. If a business receives a SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan, proceeds from it will repay the Florida Bridge Loan program. The application deadline is 60 days from the Governor’s executive order, May 8, but if the executive order is extended, the program deadline gets extended as well.

The loan must be paid in full before the maturity date. However, there is no requirement to make payments during the year. The SBDC strongly encourages borrowers not to go into default. Because this is a state-backed loan, the state has statutory obligations to report and send to collections any defaults to the state. When that happens, two things occur: at the end of the term, the rate goes from zero percent to 12 percent; and, when it goes to collection, businesses can expect 13-15 percent added on top of the balance owed at that particular time. The SBDC will reach out to businesses as the loan comes closer to term to ensure they have a repayment solution.


Eligible businesses must have been established and actively operating in a physical location in the state of Florida prior to the date of the disaster declaration. Applicants must be a for-profit, privately held small business that has or had a minimum of two but not more than 100 employees within the previous year. Applicants must also demonstrate the business has suffered some significant economic injury.

About the Guest Speakers

Michael Myhre, CEO, Florida SBDC Network Headquarters
Michael Myhre is the CEO of the Florida SBDC Network, based in the Headquarters office, located at the University of West Florida in Pensacola. Prior to this position, Michael was the State Director for the Office of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development for the State of Minnesota, responsible for entrepreneurial and small business policy development and support services. Throughout his career, he has held various positions in the field of small business assistance, development and education. In all that he does, Michael operates from his most basic core value, success through integrity. This value was formed as he matriculated at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. Michael is also a certified public accountant (inactive/unlicensed).

Ashley Bell, Regional Administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration for Region IV
Ashley was appointed on February 21, 2018, by the White House to serve as Regional Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration for Region IV; serving nine districts located in the 8 Southeastern States of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Regional Administrator Bell has oversight of over $5 billion in SBA-backed lending, the Counseling arm of the SBA, which counseled over 225,000 entrepreneurs last year in Region IV, and the contracting programs for small business, which account for over 23% of all federal contracts awarded. As a small business owner and entrepreneur himself from the young age of 22, Mr. Bell is committed to the SBA’s mission to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business concerns, to preserve free competitive enterprise and to maintain and strengthen the overall economy of our nation. Prior to this appointment, Mr. Bell served as Associate Director for External Affairs for the U.S. Peace Corps and Special Assistant in the Public Affairs Bureau of the United States Department of State. During the Trump/Pence Transition, he served as Communications & Intergovernmental Affairs Lead on the Landing Team at the State Department. Prior to the 2016 election, Ashley was a Senior Strategist at the Republican National Committee, and created and implemented a strategic initiatives communications plan and media buy to engage minority communities. Ashley was one of four national spokespeople for the RNC and was a key surrogate for the Trump Campaign. As National Director of African American Engagement for the RNC, he managed and provided strategic direction to 200+ RNC field employees and thousands of volunteers in all 50 states. Ashley is the Founder of Generation Inspiration, whose mission is to teach life skills not taught in the classroom to at-risk students in his hometown of Gainesville, Georgia, and set them on a trajectory for success. Each summer, the new members of G.I. undertake an intense eight-week summer leadership program focused on black history, personal financial accountability, networking, drug abuse prevention, economic development, using social media for civic engagement and peer conflict resolution. At the end of the program, Ashley awards scholarships, which, over the past ten years have totaled over $500,000.

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