Eight-area businesses approved for federal small business loans following toxic algae crisis

Posted at 12:07 AM, Aug 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-23 04:50:13-04

Eight area businesses are receiving federal help to recover from the algae crisis in the St. Lucie and Calloosahatchee rivers.

RELATED: More toxic water coverage

The Small Business Administration has approved $692,900 worth of Economic Injury Disaster Loans for businesses impacted by the polluted waterways.

Two businesses in Lee County were approved for loans worth $427,200.

Five loans were approved in Martin County worth $245,300, one in Hobe Sound, one in Jensen Beach and three in Stuart.

One loan was approved in St. Lucie County for $20,400.

More than 20 businesses applied for loans, but not all applications were approved.

Divyang Bandya, owner of a Valero gas station in Stuart near the Sailfish Marina, was approved for a $109,000 loan.

“I thought I was going to go broke and shut down,” Bandya said.

When boaters weren’t leaving from the nearby marina because of poor water quality, he says fewer people were stopping by his gas station and convenience store.

“Soda, juice, energy drinks, everything was bad,” Bandya explained.

The loss came at the more profitable time of year for his business. He says the summer months are typically when he earns enough money to support his business in the slower fall months.

He says he lost more than 50 percent of his typical profits.

He applied for the loan hoping the money will help him make up for losses in the summer, and survive the slower season.

“It will help me pay off all the past debts that I have that I accumulated because of the slow season,” Bandya said.

But the loan also adds another stress. It’s more money he will eventually have to pay back, with interest.

“I have that elephant on my back that I have to pay back,” Bandya said.

That added stress is why many other businesses didn’t bother applying for a small business loan.

Ohana Surf Shop Manager Brent Meinhold says his store’s owner is carefully watching spending.

“Not that we don’t need the financial assistance, but we don’t need it to be where we owe more money in three months,” Meinhold said.

They would have preferred a grant option, something where money would not have to be paid back.

It was hard to apply for a loan not knowing if the problem will come back, and if the business will be able to pay back the loan.

“The water is great now. If we get torrential downpours and they release again, it’s coming back,” Meinhold said.

The SBA opened a local temporary office to be accessible to business owners wanting to apply for loans.

The office is closing Thursday, Aug. 25 at 3 p.m.

Affected small businesses can still apply for Economic Injury Distater loans online at