CLEARWATER, Fla. — Small businesses owners along the Florida coasts affected by red tide can now seek help from the federal government to keep those businesses afloat.


The Small Business Administration is offering low interest loans to business owners in the path of red tide. 

One such business, Florida Beach Rentals, has been a staple in Clearwater for years, with tourists constantly looking to rent a property for a vacation getaway. 

“We've been in business for 14 years and we've had increases every single year,” said Lisa Bettner, the owner of Florida Beach Rentals.

But everything changed when red tide hit Florida’s Gulf Coast. Business owners in the Bay area saw an increase in cancellations even before the toxic algae bloom moved into Pinellas County.

“We had people checking in from up north asking us if the red tide was there and are there dead fish on the beach,” she said. “It also impacts more of the people coming, because now they think maybe that the problem is larger than it is.” 

Red tide eventually did make it into Pinellas County, which is now one of 14 counties affected. Even though Clearwater Beach is open, the federal declaration for Red Tide makes it easier for business owners like Bettner to qualify for small business loans. 

Bettner estimates she lost 30 percent of business alone in August because of red tide cancellations.  Overall, she says this has cost her company $300,000.

She is now seeking an economic disaster loan from the SBA, which is offering loans of up to $2 million at 3.3 percent interest for those who qualify. 

“Often times people ask me what's the credit score needed,” said Edward Dawson, public affairs specialist with SBA. “We're not looking at the credit score. We're looking at repayment ability.”

Bettner is optimistic she’ll receive the loan.

“It helps us recover, but it also helps all of our employees maintain their income and be in business so we don't have to lay people off,” she said.

If you’d like to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, call (800) 659-2955 or visit Pinellas County Economic Development  at 13805 58th Street N., Suite 1-200, Clearwater, Florida 33760.