How small businesses can recover from Hurricane Sandy and other natural disasters

By Amy Anderson

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, Nov. 8 2012 8:00 a.m. MST

People wade and paddle down a flooded street as Hurricane Sandy approaches, Monday, Oct. 29, 2012, in Lindenhurst, N.Y. Gaining speed and power through the day, the storm knocked out electricity to more than 1 million people and figured to upend life for tens of millions more. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

Jason DeCrow, AP

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Editor's note: This article written by Amy Rees Anderson originally appeared on Forbes.com and is being reprinted with her permission.

My heart goes out tonight to all those entrepreneurs who have put their hearts and souls into building their businesses — only to have them impacted or even destroyed by a natural disaster such as Hurricane Sandy. Some might say that business owners should have been prepared for such disasters, but so often when someone is starting a small business they barely have enough money to run day-to-day operations, let alone have enough to invest in disaster-recovery and business-continuity plans.

As I thought about what I might do to provide help to those affected by Hurricane Sandy, or any other natural disaster, I realized the least I could provide is a quick summary of resources available to business owners who are impacted by disaster.

The following is a short list of benefits that are available, along with links to quickly jump to their websites for the details on how to take advantage of them. The good news is that small businesses have a number sources for help. Some of these include:

Low-Interest Loans: Both the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture provide low-interest loans to business owners to help them repair and replace property and equipment that have been destroyed by the hurricane.

“Disaster can strike at any time," says the SBA on its website, "and even the most prepared businesses and business owners can be adversely impacted. If your business has been impacted by a disaster, the SBA can help by providing disaster assistance.

"Disaster assistance is money provided to individuals, families and businesses in an area whose property has been damaged or destroyed following a Presidential-declared disaster; and whose losses are not covered by insurance. Loans may be available to businesses that have suffered an economic loss as a result of the disaster. Assistance is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the SBA, the Farm Services Agency (FSA) and state governments.”

More information on the disaster assistance available through the U.S. Small Business Administration can be found at www.sba.gov.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans: Economic injury disaster loans are available for businesses that suffer “substantial economic injury,” according to SBA. These loans are available for up to $2 million and are designed to help business owners “maintain a reasonable working capital position during the period affected by the disaster.” The term of the loan is up to 30 years and the interest rate on these loans cannot exceed 4 percent interest if you can’t obtain credit elsewhere, or 8 percent interest if you can obtain credit elsewhere. Additional information about these loans is available at www.sba.gov.

Physical Disaster Loans: Physical disaster loans allow the SBA to loan up to $2 million to “repair or replace damaged real estate, equipment, inventory, and fixtures.” The term of the loan is up to 30 years and the interest rate on these loans cannot exceed 4 percent interest if you can’t obtain credit elsewhere, or 8 percent interest if you can obtain credit elsewhere. Additional information about these loans is available at www.sba.gov.

The steps for applying for either the economic injury loan or the physical disaster loan can be found at www.sba.gov.

Tax Relief: For areas that the government federally declares a disaster, business owners can apply for tax relief, which allows for expedited refunds or delayed tax filings. Additional information on these programs can be found at www.irs.gov.

Crisis Counseling Assistance: Counseling services are available through the Crisis Counseling and Assistance and Training Program. This assistance is paid for by FEMA in areas that the president has declared a major disaster area. There are immediate grants to cover up to 60 days of counseling after the disaster, and grants can cover up to nine full months following a disaster. The stress of going through a disaster is not something to be taken lightly, and counseling assistance can be a substantial help to take advantage of during this difficult time. Additional information on this program can be found at www.fema.gov.

Free Legal Services: There are free legal services available for your business through FEMA for areas the president declares a disaster to help provide you legal assistance with filing insurance claims, landlord issues, etc. Additional information on this can be found at www.fema.gov and www.disasterlegalaid.org.

Online Questionnaire and Application For Assistance: Business owners can fill out an online questionnaire to see which types of assistance you qualify for, and fill in an online application by going to www.disasterassistance.gov.

Instructions on Cleaning Up after a Hurricane: The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has provided instructions on cleaning up your office after a hurricane, such as how to remove drywall, clean surfaces, etc. This can be found at www.bt.cdc.gov.

Precautions to Take Returning to Your Office: The Center for Disease Control and Preventio also provides information on safety precautions to consider upon return to your office. This can be found at www.bt.cdc.gov.

Tips on Recovering from a Hurricane: The Environmental Protection Agency has given tips on recovering from a hurricane at www.epa.gov.

Hopefully this information will prove valuable to some as they begin their efforts to recover from Hurricane Sandy and other disasters that may occur in the future. I am personally happy to know these types of resources exist for entrepreneurs and small businesses because every little bit will help. My thoughts and prayers go out to all of you during this difficult time of recovery.

Send me a message on Twitter @amyreesanderson if there are other items you could use help with regarding finding assistance available to you.

Amy Rees Anderson is the Founder and Managing Partner of REES Capital, a Mentoring and Angel Investing Firm. Contact her at amy@reescapital.com or follow her daily blog at www.amyreesanderson.com/blog

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