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Colmena66 reactivates recovery platform to aid small businesses

Colmena66, a program of the Puerto Rico Science, Technology, and Research Trust, has reactivated its “Levanta Tu Negocio Puerto Rico,” a disaster recovery platform to help small business owners and entrepreneurs affected by Hurricane Fiona.

The nonprofit cited Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) statistics confirming that 40% of businesses are unable to restart operations after a disaster, and 25% shut down within the first year following a disaster.

“To prevent Puerto Rican businesses from suffering such a fate, a dedicated group of organizations from the entrepreneurship ecosystem have come together to gather data on the needs and damages of businesses in Puerto Rico and to better guide them to the available recovery assistance,” Colmena66 officials said.

“Disaster response must leverage technology as a critical tool to increase effectiveness in deploying aid and measuring the results of our collective efforts. With ‘Levanta Tu Negocio,’ Colmena66 integrates the disaster recovery efforts of the entrepreneurship ecosystem to assist small businesses and entrepreneurs faster and better,” said Science Trust CEO Lucy Crespo.

The data collected on the “Levanta Tu Negocio” platform also serves to analyze which additional resources need to be developed to guarantee operational continuity, Colmena66 stated.

More than 600 entrepreneurs and business owners have informed of their damages and needs and so far, the industries with the most participation are retail, agriculture, professional services, and restaurants. Fifty-five percent of respondents confirmed they lack alternative sources of energy generation, while 39% have an emergency generator.

Sixty-five percent identify power outages as the main cause of damages suffered to their businesses, surpassing the number of respondents that identified flooding, mudslides, winds, and others as main causes of damages.

Meanwhile, 73% said they do not have an insurance policy that covers hurricanes, floods, landslides, or similar disasters. Of these, 12% indicate that it’s too expensive, while 8% specify that their business does not qualify for insurance.

Likewise, 82% of those surveyed do not have an emergency or contingency fund, and 58% state they only have available funds to continue operating for less than a month. Sixty-two percent estimate needing less than $15,000 to continue operations, while 55% indicate needing guidance on grants and loans.

“These numbers evidence the state of vulnerability of these businesses in terms of access to capital in the face of consecutive crises that have forced many to take on more debt to recover and continue their business operations,” Colmena66 officials stated.

An ‘army’ of entrepreneurial support
The “Levanta tu Negocio” platform integrates more than 200 entrepreneurial support organizations, including the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC, in Spanish), the US Department of Commerce, the US Small Business Administration, incubators, accelerators, technical assistance, and business development centers, coworking spaces, academia, nonprofit and community organizations, mentors, financial institutions, among others.

“Our learnings from the experiences of previous crises, such as Hurricane María, earthquakes, the COVID-19 pandemic, and now Hurricane Fiona, equip us to be more agile and effective in our collective support to small businesses in the aftermath of a disaster,” said Denisse Rodríguez-Colón, executive director of Colmena66.

“The numbers confirm that business owners and entrepreneurs are also more prepared, as only 8% of survey respondents expressed feeling less prepared for this disaster compared to previous ones,” she said.

Meanwhile, DDEC Secretary Manuel Cidre said, “a quick response in the aftermath of a disaster is critical for small business owners that need to keep their businesses running. Like Colmena66, the DDEC worked immediately to identify funds to aid businesses, but most importantly, to prioritize processing applications and disbursements to help business owners mitigate situations negatively affecting their operations.”

“‘Levanta Tu Negocio’ not only collects valuable information on the business ecosystem, but also assists our business owners, guiding them to the available aid that will help their businesses pull through,” he said.

To report damages and to receive guidance on and be connected to available aid, business owners may complete the survey online or call 787-525-4111. Business owners can also find an updated list of available aid here.  

Aware of the unstable access to electricity, internet and communication, Business Support Brigades kickstarted their visits around Puerto Rico two weeks after the hurricane.

Anyone with a business can receive assistance to complete the survey and receive guidance from several entrepreneurial support organizations, including the PR-SBTDC, Friends of Puerto Rico, Foundation for Puerto Rico, and the SBA.

“The federal government is committed to Puerto Rico’s recovery, recognizing it is a collaborative effort among communities, support organizations, and additional resources,” Josué E. Rivera, SBA district director for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, said.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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