Troubled Tampa business owners worry about repaying COVID-19 disaster loans

Troubled Tampa business owners worry about repaying COVID-19 disaster loans


Tampa, Florida (WFLA) — Federal disaster loans have helped many small businesses survive the coronavirus pandemic, but the payment deferral period will soon be over — and some business owners say it’s too soon.

Maria Suarez started cleaning houses in Tampa alone in the ’90s. Now, more than twenty people depend on it.

“I just started cleaning up [by] Myself. People were very happy with my job and I’m growing bigger and now, we have 25 girls,” Suarez said.

The Colombian is living the American dream, but she is afraid to lose it.

At the height of the pandemic, Maria took out a loan from the US Small Business Administration (EIDL).

The SBA program allowed companies to borrow up to $2 million at 3.75% interest. Payment has been delayed yet.

“It’s hard to push now,” Suarez said.

Suarez is not alone. Alicia Noble, chief financial officer of La Pequeña Colombia, is in a similar situation.

“Nobody’s talking about this,” Noble said.

In May of 2020, the restaurant took out a $200,000 loan from the SBA. Noble is grateful for that, saying she would have drowned without the loan.

“The only thing that paid was rent, electricity, goods and insurance,” she said.

Noble wants to pay off the loan in full, but says it’s hard to do now — and not just for her sake.

“I am very involved with Latin companies in this field…the majority of them have never had loans of this size – ever,” she said. “Now, they have to start paying while the economy is still not good and no one is looking at them… Maybe you can be the hero and shine the spotlight there.”

She says high inflation, supply shortages and massive resignations are all creating unprecedented challenges.

“When you apply for the loan, you not only have to put your business information in, you have to back it up personally,” Nobles explained. “It’s backed by the person who owns the company as well.”

Last year, the SBA deferred these loans, giving companies more time. The 8 site on your part has asked if another postponement is possible.

Meanwhile, the down payment is due within 24 months for loans made in 2020 and 18 months for loans made in 2021.

If you are a small business owner and would like to share your story, email Detective Mahsa Saeedi at MSaeidi@WFLA.com.



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