Business Disaster Resources

Local Resources to Help Your Business Weather the Next Storm with Background Image of Storm Clouds


March 9, 2020:  Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-51, declaring a State of Emergency for COVID-19

March 12, 2020: Governor Ron DeSantis announced the activation of the Business Damage Assessment survey.

March 17, 2020: The Highlands County Board of County Commissioners passed a resolution proclaiming a Local State of Emergency

April 1, 2020: Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-91 requiring stay at home.


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Planning helps you resume operations more quickly, and it gives you a competitive advantage by providing your customers assurance that you’re prepared to serve them even after a disaster. 

  1. Do-It-Yourself Planning Guides: Visit for an interactive guide that will generate a custom plan tailored to your business Ready.Gov/Business 
  2. FREE Expert Help: SBDC specialists can help you develop custom disaster plans. Find out more at 863-784-7378 or
  3. Prep Your Disaster Kit: Assemble your essential documents to ensure you have the items needed to quickly submit insurance claims and apply for potential support programs. View a suggested disaster kit checklist here (PDF). 



Stay connected with up-to-date information via these two sources:

1. Subscribe to our Business Alerts for realtime information on the activation of support programs, urgent updates and more. (Business only updates)

2. Subscribe to ALERT HIGHLANDS for critical alerts on severe weather, unexpected road closures, missing persons, and evacuations of buildings or neighborhoods. (All county updates)

3. Register your business with the state's emergency business database at





Complete the Governor-activated online damage assessment, which takes just a few minutes. Your information will be shared with emergency response agencies to expedite implementation of appropriate disaster relief programs.

The Business Damage Assessment Survey can be taken online at

Depending on the severity of a disaster, a number of resources may be activated to help businesses. These resources include:


The Florida Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program has been activated by the Governor to provide short-term, interest-free loans to businesses impacted by COVID-19. Administered by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) in partnership with the Florida SBDC Network and Florida First Capital Finance Corporation (FFCFC), the bridge loan program is a short-term, interest-free loan program designed to help businesses bridge the gap between the time damage is incurred and when a business secures other financial resources, including payment of insurance claims or longer-term U.S. Small Business Administration loans. The applciation deadline is May 8, 2020, contingent on availability of funds.

CLICK HERE for information about eligibility and loan eligibility details.

Phone inquiries should be directed to the Department of Economic Opportunity's (DEO) COVID-19 Call Center: 1-833-832-4494. Also, all loan applications must be completed online on DEO's website. APPLY HERE.
Due to the high outreach volume noticed above, Highlands County businesses can also reach out directly to Highlands County Economic Development at, 863-402-6906 or 863-402-6924 for additional guidance. 



As of April 6, 2020, Enterprise Florida (EFI) suspended initial fees (normally 2%) for this program to support Florida's small business community impacted by COVID-19. EFI manages the program which is designed to stimulate access to credit for entrepreneurs and small businesses by providing targeted loan guarantees to lenders made to such entrepreneurs and small businensses. The program provides guarantees of up to 50% on loans of $250,000 or less. 

The Microfinance Guarantee Program has the following requirements:

- Entrepreneur or small business located in Florida
- Employs 25 or fewer people
- Generates average annual gross revenues of $1.5 million or less per year for the last 2 years

Interested business must apply through a local lender. For further information please contact your lender and/or visit Enterprise Florida's website. 



The Small Business Adminsitrations offers low interest disaster loans for individuals, businesses and non-profit organizations. The loans can be used for loss and damages not fully covered by insurance. View this list of information needed for the SBA loan process.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has two disaster declarations applicable to Highlands County residents and businesses related to Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

    Businesses and most private non-profit organizations located in a declared disaster area that incurred damage during a disaster may apply for a low-interest loan to help replace or restore damaged property if federal assistance is activated. SBA makes physical disaster loans of up to $2 million to qualified businesses and most private non-profit organizations. Visit for full details

    If federal assistance is activated and you are in a declared disaster area, have suffered substantial economic injury regardless of physical damage, and you are a small business, small agricultural cooperative, or private nonprofit organizations, you may qualify for an EIDL. EIDLs provide working capital to help businesses survive until normal operations resume after a disaster. SBA can provide up to a maximum of $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses. A business may qualify for both an EIDL and a physical disaster loan, not to exceed the maximum of $2 million. Visit for full details.

    • FL 16183 is an Economic Injury Disaster Declaration for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, and most private non-profit organizations. This is for those who lost income due to Hurricane Dorian, when it looked as if the storm might hit Florida, Aug. 28-Sept. 9. These working capital loans up to $2 million 3.875% interest (there is no minimum borrowing requirement). The application deadline is Aug. 13, 2020. DOWNLOAD FACT SHEET HERE.

    • FL 16353 is an Economic Injury Disaster Declaration for working capital loans to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private non-profit organizations to assist through the disaster recovery period of COVID-19 (Coronavirus). Small businesses can qualify for up to $2 million. No limit on number of employees (**businesses with only 1 employee are eligible, unlike with the Emergency Bridge Loan Program). Interest rates of 3.75% for-profit or 2.75% non-profit. Applicants do not go thorugh a bank to apply. Business owners apply directly to the SBA's Disaster Assistance Program at:  The application deadline is December 18, 2020. DOWNLOAD FACT SHEET HERE.

      If your business needs funding now, you can apply for a $10,000 EMERGENCY ECONOMIC INJURY GRANT to cover payroll while your EIDL application is being processed. Funds will be made available within days of a successful application submission and this loan advance does not have to be repaid even if the grantee is subsequently denied an EIDL.
      CLICK HERE for information about eligibility, loan program details, and how to apply.

      SBA Customer Service Line: 800-659-2955

SUBSCRIBE TO THE SBA'S E-NEWSLETTER to receive up-to-date information on the dates, times and call in information for these sessions on their programs. 


The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) provides a Reemployment Assistance Center that houses a Reemployment Assistance Application Guide Video as well as Reemployment Assistance COVID-19 Frequently Asked Questions.  

Short Time Compensation Information

Short Time Compensation is a special claims program that pays partial benefits to groups of employees working reduced hours. Employers may elect to participate in this program to retain valued employees by reducing hours for an entire group of employees instead of resorting to temporary layoffs. 

View Program Information for EMPLOYERS    |    View Program Information for EMPLOYEES

To help process reemployment assistance (unemployment) at a faster rate, the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) is offering two application options: Online or Print/Mail-In Form. To learn more or apply visit:

Additional questions or information can be gained by contacting Highlands County's local workforce board, CareerSource Heartland for employers and employees dealing with potential layoffs due to COVID-19 and various support programs. CareerSource Heartland can be reached at 863-385-6372.



The programs and initiatives in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act that was just passed by Congress are intended to assist business owners with whatever needs they have right now. When implemented, there will be many new resources available for small businesses, as well as certain non-profits and other employers. This guide provides information about the major programs and initiatives that will soon be available from the Small Business Administration (SBA) to address these needs, as well as some additional tax provisions that are outside the scope of the SBA. To keep up to date on when these programs become available, please stay in contact with your local SBA District office, which you can locate here. 


Struggling to get started? The following questions might help point you in the right direction. Do you need:

Capital to cover the cost of retaining employees? Then the Paycheck Protection Program might be right for you. 

A quick infusion of a smaller amount of cash to cover you right now? You might want to look into an Emergency Economic Injury Grant.

To ease your fears about keeping up with payments on your current or potential SBA loan? The Small Business Debt Relief Program could help.

Just some quality, free counseling to help you navitage this uncertain economic time? The resource partners might be your best bet.



Passed by Congress and signed by the President, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act established the Paycheck Protection Program intended to provide eligible small businesses with eight weeks of cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). To apply for forgiveness, small businesses must submit documentation regarding the eligible uses of loan funds (payroll costs, mortgage interest, utilities, etc.), a certification that such documents are true and correct, as well the amount to be forgiven, and any other documentation deemed necessary by the SBA. The amount any small business is eligible to borrow and be forgiven is 250 percent of their average monthly payroll expenses, up to a total of $10 million. Loans are available through June 30, 2020. 

DOWNLOAD the Payment Protection Program (PPP) guide       CLICK HERE for PPP Overview

CLICK HERE for PPP Information Sheet for Borrowers              CLICK HERE for the application for the PPP Loan/Grant. 

CLICK HERE for additional information from the FSBDC Network.

NOTE: This is an evolving process, and many banks are working to keep up with the legislation and situated as eligible lenders. The Sebring Chamber has identified several local banks that are currently approved to process SBA loans (this list may not be 100% accurate nor exhaustive):

       CenterState Bank                      Suncoast Credit Union
       First Southern Bank                   MIDFLORIDA Credit Union
       Heartland National Bank            SunTrust/Truist 
       Wauchula State Bank

The Florida Small Business Development Center Network recommends contacting your primary business bank first. If your banker does not participate in the program, they can refer you to a local participating bank. You may also find SBA-approved lenders in the area through the SBA's online Lender Match Tool. 




This program will provide immediate relief to small businesses with non-disaster SBA loans, in particular 7(a), 504, and microloans. Under it, SBA will cover all loan payments on these SBA loans, including principal, interest, and fees, for six months. This relief will also be available to new borrowers who take out loans within six months of the President signing the bill into law.




Enhance the quality of life in Highlands County by attracting a diversity of new businesses; increasing industrial investment while facilitating the retention and successful expansion of existing business and industry.

Keep In Touch

Economic Development
Highlands County Board of County Commissioners
(P) 863.402.6906
(F) 863.402.6651