“In our opinion, the original lawsuit was basically a contractual dispute as a result of DEO drafting a contract that differs from statute and choosing to penalize BBIF Florida, a small non-profit rather than admit to its error,” said Inez Long, President and CEO of BBIF Florida. “In fact, BBIF Florida’s performance on this contract is excellent as stated in DEO’s own audit documents and its independent consultant report.”
In September 2009, BBIF Florida was selected through a competitive process to administer the state’s Economic Gardening Business Loan Pilot Program (EGBLPP), a race-neutral $8.5 million loan fund, designed to assist stage-two businesses in high growth industries, on behalf of DEO. Long said these loans were distributed between 2009 and 2011 during the peak of Florida’s worst economic downturn when few banks were providing loans to small businesses in the state of Florida. Through these loans, BBIF Florida helped keep 43 businesses open and helped create and sustain 1,100 jobs, which paid an average salary of $45,000.
Long adds BBIF Florida was proactive in communicating with DEO regarding several contractual inconsistencies that deviated from the Florida Statutes, one particular irregularity being the ambiguity regarding the calculation of the loan servicing fees payable to BBIF Florida. She said her team asked questions and met with five DEO Executive Directors over a 15-month period to reconcile the matter. Long added that BBIF Florida received specific verbal and written direction from DEO on how to calculate the fees and complied with those directions.
“While DEO continues to levy the outrageous allegations that we breached the very contract that they wrote, the DEO risks crippling the small businesses they claim to support,” said Long. “DEO’s position is that BBIF Florida is only entitled to $22,250 per year for four years of work to administer the $8.5 million loan fund over 67 counties. This is unreasonable. BBIF Florida is only seeking to be paid a fair wage for the scope of services it has provided.”
BBIF Florida has been a partner with the State of Florida for 26 years. As recently as July 2014, BBIF Florida entered into a new contract with DEO of which BBIF Florida is paid $44,000 for one-year of work to administer loans in only four counties.
About the Black Business Investment Fund of Central Florida (BBIF Florida)
BBIF Florida is a non-traditional lender that specializes in providing loans to Black, minority and underserved small businesses with loans that range from $5,000 to $250,000. The organization is certified by the U. S. Department of Treasury as a CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution)
BBIF Florida has created an economic impact in excess of $420 million into Florida’s economy with a historical loan loss of less than 3 percent. As a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), BBIF Florida is a mission-driven financial institution that provides financial products and services to businesses underserved by traditional lending sources.
Additionally, in 2013, through its other loan funds, BBIF Florida helped to reconstruct our economy by providing access of $3,275,650 in loan capital to 14 businesses. These loans helped to create and retain 1,795 jobs in Florida.
For more information, please visit: www.bbifflorida.com.