Small Business Administration offers loans to rebuild local economy

William Evans

As search and rescue teams scour the disaster zones for the human casualties of the storm, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is putting plans into place to revitalize the private business sector suffering from the tornado damage.

Businesses do not have to brave the storm alone.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has appointed the Small Business Administration to take in applications for long-term, low-interest disaster loans for storm-displaced businesses suffering from damaged property or economic loss.

“The U.S. Small Business Administration is strongly committed to providing the people of Alabama with the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist homeowners, renters, and businesses with federal disaster loans,” according to an SBA news release. “Getting businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is our highest priority at SBA.”

Businesses with damaged or destroyed property can apply for a disaster loan for physical damage.

“Businesses and private non-profit organizations of any size may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets,” according to a news release from SBA.

Regardless of physical damage to property, businesses can apply for economic injury disaster loans intended to assist businesses that will experience a stifled revenue during the recovery period.

The loans can be extended for up to 30 years unless the business has credit available elsewhere, which would restrict the term of the loan to three years. Depending on financial condition, the interest rates can dip below 3 percent. Loan amounts and terms are set by SBA.

Registering through FEMA, whether online or by calling 1-800-621-3362, is imperative since the decision to lend credit to a business cannot proceed until the application is fully completed, said Greg Dawson, SBA spokesperson.

The decision to extend credit to applicants depends upon the applicant’s ability to repay the loan.

“We look at the money coming in versus the money going out,” Dawson said. “Credit decisions are based on the ability to repay the loan.”

Physical loss loans above $14,000 and economic injury disaster loans above $5,000 will require a business to pledge some form of collateral for the loan, often in the form of real estate if available.

Disaster recovery centers, located in many of the affected counties, can walk storm-displaced businesses through the application process, Dawson said.

Small businesses that have lost contact with customers in the aftermath of the tornado can touch base with their clientele with the help of Emergency Business Assistance Centers to appear soon in Tuscaloosa.

Partnering with Shelton State Community College, the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama will take the initiative to supply storm-displaced businesses with basic business essentials, such as free phone and internet service and computer usage, according to a news release from the Chamber.

The Chamber of Commerce is hosting a business recovery information meeting Friday at 5:30 p.m. in Bryant Conference Center.

For needs assessment, businesses can contact Stacey Gann at the Chamber at 205-758-7588.

Larger, industrial businesses that need storage or warehouse space should instead contact the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority at 205-349-1414 for assistance.