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BRACE Program Helping Small Businesses Get Help Dealing With COVID-19 Pandemic

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) - While some businesses are getting help from customers, others are turning to a new economic partnership program.


A mom and pop restaurant in Lake Mary is getting help from it’s customers to try and reopen. Appleton’s Café closed during the pandemic. The owner says it’s stayed closed because they haven’t been able to recover.But now a loyal customer has set up a Go Fund Me account so it can reopen.


Dr. Daniel Rubin says, "We’ve got to save this restaurant it’s not a chain or a franchise. It’s unique. I think it’s an historic site.It’s very stressful, but at the end of the day we’re all in this together."


At the Just Fix it Collision Center, COVID-19 has put a dent into business.


"It’s been very challenging," says owner David Kowlessar.


And over at Seniors Helping Seniors in Brevard County, it has also hit hard.


Jennifer Helin says, "It has hurt our business."


But small businesses like Just Fix It and Seniors Helping Seniors now have a helping hand of their own, through the called Business Recovery Assistance Collaborative Engagement program, or BRACE.


Rachael Kobb, a BRACE senior director, says an ambassador helps owners navigate funding options and other resources. So far they’ve helped more than 400 businesses.

"Our focus is on the small businesses and helping them get funding like the Paycheck Protection Program," she explains.


"Give them a human voice that they can talk to and know that we’re here for them and advocate for them is really special."


She says it makes a difference when a person can actually talk to a person rather than just filing online.


"I was able to resubmit my application within an hour, when it took me four days, because the system was down at the bank," Kowlessar says.


Helin says a BRACE ambassador was able to help her get a hold of her bank.

"We had applied for the Paycheck Protection Program and had not received any word."


Thanks to BRACE, they have the money they need to keep operating.


Helin says, "Gave me a lot of peace of mind," and Kowlessar agrees, adding "they’ve been very, very helpful. Without BRACE, I would have never been able to get funding."


To learn more about BRACE, visit the website.

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