SBA Disaster Loans Topic of Chamber Virtual Meeting

provided to Santiva Chronicle

Althea Harris

The Sanibel & Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce, along with the other seven members of the Southwest Florida Chamber Alliance and the Lee County Horizon Council, hosted its fourth virtual pandemic meeting on Monday, April 27, featuring Althea Harris, the supervisory lead economic development specialist for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) South Florida District Office.

Just as the second round of federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) forgivable loans opened that morning, Harris reminded more than 200 Zoom viewers of its stipulations and benefits. She encouraged them to apply through one of the more than 5,000 SBA-regulated lenders nationwide, later recommending small community and regional banks and credit unions over large corporate banks.

Harris cautioned borrowers under the program that they must retain the same amount of employees as they had on the payroll when applying for the loan, even if they are not the same original employees.

She also outlined the terms of SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), which is also expected to reopen with a new influx of federal funding. “You can apply for this loan and the PPP,” she explained. But you can’t use both for the same costs, she added. In other words, EIDL loan funds cannot be used for payroll expenses if you are using a PPP loan.

Harris provided SBA tools that chamber and horizon council members can use for keeping in contact with the district SBA office about questions and issues, including the webinars and email bulletin subscription available at, South Florida SBA’s YouTube channel and Twitter page, and by email at She recommended local chambers as “a very valuable resource. They are organizations that advocate on behalf of your business. They are information centers… and they care about you.”

“I will second everything you said about being a member of your local chamber. We work hard and care very deeply for each and every chamber member out there,” corroborated John Lai, chamber president and chief executive office before he opened the discussion to questions.

“Althea’s straightforward PowerPoint presentation was extremely helpful in clearing up the muddle of information out there,” said Lai. “We are super grateful for the time she spent making this difficult time less so.”

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