Small businesses offered help amid red tide crisis

- When red tide moved onto Anna Maria Island, business at YOLO Parasail on Bridge Street dried up. 

"We were substantially down for a few weeks," said owner Ryan Davis. 

Davis has been in business since 2004. He relies on the summer months to carry him through the slow times. 

"August, we really look forward to a good month, especially before the heart of hurricane season," he said. 

When he learned the U.S Small Business Administration would open a disaster loan outreach center at the Holmes Beach Library, he decided to check it out. 

"It never hurts to explore the options of the SBA loans, we were substantially down in the month of August specifically," he said. 

Over the last week and a half, conditions on Anna Maria Island and Bradenton Beach have improved.

The smell is significantly better and there are far fewer dead fish in the water. Customers are trickling back in at local businesses, but owners like Davis say they are applying for that disaster loan, just in case they need it later down the road.

"If we need to take the money, it would be to keep everybody employed if the business doesn't come back and also to advertise and make sure people are still coming to the island," he explained.

The low cost, low interest loans can be paid back over 30 years. For some business owners, it's the difference between staying open and closing up. 

"Business is down on the island and the mainland. Businesses are effected severely. It shows in their revenues and their profit loss," said Bruno Kapacinskas with Manatee County's Redevelopment and Economic Opportunity Department

The Manatee County Economic Development team said it's about helping owners get through the tough times. 

"They need not a handout but a hand up and this is what this is for," said Kapacinskas. 

The disaster loan outreach center locations are:

- Manatee County: Library, Island Branch; 5701 Marina Road Homes Beach, FL 34217; Hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

- Sarasota County: Bee Ridge Park; 4430 South Lockwood Road Sarasota, FL 34231; Hours: Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Applications and information are available by calling the SBA's customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 or by e-mailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.

Applications can be downloaded at www.sba.gov/disaster. 

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