SUNCOAST – Loans that are supposed to aid businesses in their recovery from red tide are not as helpful as the state makes them out to be.

Those loans have to be paid back, and they carry high interest rates with them. The interest and the fact that many business owners are not aware of the loans at all, have muddied the already toxic waters.

The Small Business Emergency Bridge Loan Program offers loans of up to $50,000 with zero interest for 180 days, but an 18 percent annual rate after that. Some Suncoast businesses have said they have lost as much as 70% of their normal business, and paying back a short-term loan will not be easy.

Only 30 loans had been granted as of last week, and the application period ends Oct. 12 for red tide–related loans.