The webinar featured guest speakers Ken Lawson, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), and Michael DiNapoli, director of the Office of Small and Minority Business Capital for the Florida DEO.

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: DEO Reemployment and Recovery Assistance is the third 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 Sharon Smoley, Partnership vice president of advocacy and public policy, and Crystal Sircy, Partnership COO and senior vice president of business development, for a discussion on the resources available to help the Orlando business community adapt to the public health and economic realities of COVID-19.

This edition of the webinar series featured guest speakers Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) Ken Lawson and Director of the Office of Small and Minority Business Capital for the Florida (DEO) Michael DiNapoli. Executive Director Lawson shared information about the DEO’s resources regarding COVID-19, including the Reemployment Assistance program, Emergency Bridge Loan and Business Damage Assessment Survey, and Director DiNapoli discussed Emergency Bridge Loans in more detail.

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

Key Takeaways

The DEO is providing interest free working capital loans to assist businesses in the short-term.

Damage Assessment Survey
The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) is encouraging any business that’s been impacted by state efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 to take the business damage assessment survey on More than 8,400 surveys have been submitted. So far, the industries most impacted are food & dining, retail, personal care, education, entertainment, and construction.

Reemployment Assistance
The DEO helps employers that had to either reduce employee hours or let employees go. The short-term compensation program allows employees to receive benefits from the program while the employer continues to pay for reduced hours. This allows businesses to retain employees and avoid the need to hire and train new employees. More information and to register can be found here.:

Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan
The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan is a short-term interest free working capital loan intended to assist businesses until a long-term recovery resource is secured. The end date to apply is May 8th, 2020. Businesses eligible for the loan include:

  • For-profit, privately held businesses located in Florida
  • Businesses must be established prior to March 9th, 2020, and suffered economic injury as a result of COVID-19
  • Must be a business with between two and 100 employees (owners are considered employees)

Applicants need to own at least 51 percent of an eligible business to apply, and only one loan is allowed per business. The loan term is one year from the date the closing documents are signed; the loan defaults after one year. This loan is interest-free for one year and is not a term loan. The money for the loan is due after one year, and if it is not paid during that year, it is considered default.

Applying for the Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan
To apply for the Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan, visit

Applicants should sign-up with an email as their username. Once sign up is completed, an email will be sent with the verification code and link to sign in and start the application under the “New Loan Application” tab. (Sometimes email will arrive in the spam folder). The DEO encourages applicants to fill each section as accurately and completely as possible as it will help speed up the process. With the amount of applications, it might take up to two to three weeks to receive the loan.

SBA Economic Impact Disaster Loan
When applying for the Emergency Bridge Loan, businesses are also encouraged to apply to the SBA Economic Impact Disaster Loan. Businesses will still qualify for the DEO loan, but the SBA has more money available. The Small Business Administration (SBA) is offering low interest disaster loans for small businesses suffering economic injury caused by COVID-19. For more information please visit

DEO contact information:
DEO Loan email:
Toll Free number: 1 (833) 832-4494

About the Guest Speakers

Ken Lawson
Executive Director, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
Ken Lawson is the Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). Prior to DEO, he served as the CEO and President of Visit Florida and the Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR).Lawson has also held several positions within law enforcement agencies and began his legal career in the U.S. Marine Corps. He is a native Floridian and graduate of Florida State University and the Florida State University College of Law.

Michael DiNapoli
Director, Small and Minority Business Capitol, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
Michael DiNapoli is the Director of the Office of Small and Minority Business Capital for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), where he oversees key business lending programs, venture capital and small and minority business programs. He is also responsible for the Emergency Bridge Loan program when activated through Executive Order by the Governor. In addition to his role at DEO, Mr. DiNapoli currently serves as a board member for First Housing in Tampa and the Association for Metro Area Autistic Children in New York City.

Prior to joining DEO in 2017, Mr. DiNapoli was Senior Vice President for Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and UBS Financial in New York City. He has held multiple positions specializing in finance and banking since 1993. Mr. DiNapoli received a Bachelor of Arts in English and American History with a minor in Economics and Finance from Manhattan College in 1991.

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