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Federal agency offering financial aid to businesses affected by lingering algae problem

Posted at 5:55 PM, Jul 20, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-20 17:55:37-04

STUART, Fla. -- Tucked away in a room at the Martin County Fairgrounds is a place for help.

James Elens is a customer service representative with the U.S. Small Business Administration and has been working there for more than a decade.

In his time there, he's responded to natural disasters like hurricanes and landslides, but he said he's never seen anything like the algae crisis in South Florida.

"Here you don't see it unless you're living right on the water, but it's every bit a part of the communities," he said.

Elens is helping local business owners get loans through the SBA.

"Low interest, long-term recovery loans to businesses so that they have operating capital to get through whatever the event is," Elens said.

SPECIAL SECTION: TOXIC ALGAE 

Elens doesn't know right now how many people have applied for loans through the SBA. There are some concerns about the loans, according to some local business owners.

Elens said, "For loans over $25,000, we like to take a lien position on some sort of collateral."

That's the reason Eric Olson doesn't want to get one.

Olson is the owner of Fresh Catch Seafood in Stuart.

He's had to cut back on his employees' hours to help cover other costs.

"Our fishermen have to go further to catch more fish, which costs more money," Olson said.

Each month, he has to now pay thousands of extra dollars to cover the cost of fresh fish.

He hopes changes can be made soon to prevent his business from suffering any more losses.

"For God's sake we've got to get together-- "big sugar," Lake Okeechobee, congressmen and start showing some results," Olson said.

If you'd like to apply for a loan, visit this link or call (800)659-2955.

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