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Op-Ed: Hurricane Irene update: Assessing the damage and taking action to help business owners, homeowners and renters

Special contribution by SBA Administrator Karen Mills

Right now, many communities are still feeling the aftermath of Hurricane Irene, including major floods in Puerto Rico. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of staying safe and listening to public officials. Flooding is still widespread and dangerous power lines are still down, so be sure to steer clear.

Also, right now, many business owners, homeowners, and renters along the East Coast are coming back to find physical damage to their buildings and property. In addition, thousands of businesses are dealing with the economic blow caused by power outages, lost inventory, and lost business from being closed down.

The SBA stands ready to help.

Already, we have people deployed starting from the Southernmost point where the storm hit in Puerto Rico. Today, our staff is helping conduct damage assessments on the island as well as in North Carolina, and many more states will be assessed over the next few days. We have about 500 disaster reservists who are ready to mobilize now to respond to possible disaster declarations from the President.

How will we help?  Three main ways.

Businesses and nonprofit organizations of any size can apply for a low-interest disaster loan of up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged real estate or inventory.

Just as importantly, I want to emphasize the importance of Economic Injury Disaster Loans, also up to $2 million. With all of the power outages and evacuations, we know that many small businesses made it through the storm, but they’ve lost significant amounts of business. In many cases, these businesses will be eligible for EIDL loans to help cover their working capital needs, regardless of whether the business suffered property damage.

Finally, homeowners can apply for loans of up to $200,000 to repair damaged real estate.  Homeowners and renters can also apply to borrow up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property damaged by the flooding or winds. (In addition, we can sometimes increase a loan by up to 20 percent to make structural improvements that lessen the risk of property damage by future disasters of the same kind.)

Once the declaration is made, there are several ways to apply. Even before local recovery centers open, you can apply here: https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/. For information about the disaster loan process, or to have an application mailed to you, you can either email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov or call 800-659-2955.  To download an application, go here: www.sba.gov/disaster. (Those who are deaf, hard-of-hearing or speech-impaired can call 800-877-8339.)

Overall, our commitment at SBA and throughout the Administration is that we will be there until we get the job done – and we will get it done right.

Karen Mills is Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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