Business Disaster Resources

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


On Monday, March 9, 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued Executive Order 20-51, declaring a State of Emergency for COVID-19. By declaring a State of Emergency, Governor DeSantis is ensuring that state and local governments have the resources and flexibility they need to prepare and respond. 

On Thursday March 12, 2020, Governor Ron DeSantis announced the activation of the Business Damage Assessment survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on Florida's local business operations.  The survey, managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), will evaluate businesses affected by COVID-19 and the impacts the virus had on the local economy so actions to implement appropriate relief programs can begin.  The Business Damage Assessment Survey can be taken online at


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

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) continues to encourage businesses to follow the "Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers" issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 


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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



We know you’re busy, but the effects of a disaster on your business will only be worse if you don’t plan in advance. 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. How would you manage your business if access to the workplace is limited by roads closures, streets are impassable, or communication is limited?


Do-It-Yourself Planning Guides:


FREE Expert Help:

SBDC specialists can help you develop custom disaster plans. Find out more at 863-784-7378 or


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). Subscribe to our email list.





Complete the 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.

Governor Ron DeSantis announced the activation of the Business Damage Assessment survey to assess the impact of COVID-19 on Florida's local business operations.  The survey, managed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), will evaluate businessess affected by COVID-19 and the impacts the virus had on the local economy so actions to implement appropriate relief programs can begin.  

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 purpose of the Emergency Bridge Loan Program is to provide a source of expedient cash flow to Florida small businesses impacted by a disaster. These short-term, interest-free working capital loans are intended to "bridge the gap" between the time a major catastrophe hits and when a business has secured longer term recovery resources, such as sufficient profits from a revived business, receipt of payments on insurance claims or federal disaster assistance. 

On March 16, 2020 Governor Ron DeSantis activated the loan program to support small businesses impacted by COVID-19. The program will provide short-term, interest-free loans to small businesses that experienced economic injury from COVID-19. The applciation period runs March 17,2020 through May 8, 2020, contingent on availability of funds.

APPLICATION PROCESS UPDATE: As of Tuesday, March 24, 2020, all phone inquiries must 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 at DEO's website: Florida SBDC at USF will no longer accept applications sent via email, fax or USPS. The Florida SBDC at USF will continue to work with the list of business owners that have already started the application process directly with them. They will also work with the applications that will be sent to DEO directly starting today, March 24, 2020, for continued assistance at the local level.

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. 

Additional Details >>

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.



    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 iwth 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 Florida Small Business Development Center at USF will assist Highlands County applicants in completing their forms, when requested. The application deadline is December 18, 2020. DOWNLOAD FACT SHEET HERE.


DID YOU KNOW? The U.S. SBA South FL District Office is hosting daily to weekly virtual office hours and webinars in English and Spanish. 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

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.



The program would provide cash-flow assistance through 100 percent federally guaranteed loans to employers who maintain their payroll during this emergency. If employers maintain their payroll, the loans would be forgiven, which would help workers remain employed, as well as help affected small businesses and our economy snap back quicker after the crisis. PPP has a host of attractive features, such as forgiveness of up to 8 weeks of payroll based on employee retention and salary levels, no SBA fees, and at least six months of deferral with maximum deferrals of up to a year. Small businesses with other eligible entities will be able to apply if they were harmed by CODID-19 between February 15,2020 and June 30, 2020. This program would be retroactive to February 15, 2020, in order to help bring workers who may have already been laid off back onto payrolls. Loans are available through June 30, 2020. 

DOWNLOAD the Payment Protection Program (PPP) guide.

DOWNLOAD 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 four local banks that are currently approved to process SBA loans and are members of the Chamber: 

- CenterState Bank
- First Southern Bank
- Heartland National Bank
- 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. 




These grants provide an emergency advance of up to $10,000 to small businesses and private non-profits harmed by COVID-19 within three days of applying for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). To access the advance, you first apply for an EIDL (information above) and then request the advance. The advance does not need to be repaid under any circumstance, and may be used to keep employees on payroll, to pay for sick leave, meet increased production costs due to supply chain disruptions, or pay business obligations, including debts, rent and mortgage payments. Application filing deadline: December 18, 2020.

CLICK HERE for information about eligibility, loan program details, and how to apply.




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