When disaster hits, the SBA assists (and not just businesses)

In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and now Maria, individuals, business owners and others are wondering how they will recover from the ruin they face, especially if they are underinsured or have no insurance at all. The U.S. Small Business Administration is here to assist.

During and immediately following a disaster, some federal agencies, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, engage to rescue and ensure safety, if needed. Others, including the SBA, aid with recovery and rebuilding in partnership with other federal, state and local organizations.

This has happened right here in Ohio in response to various conditions such as flooding, storms, mudslides and drought. In fact, currently seven declared disasters are eligible for assistance in the state. So, you don’t need a Harvey or Irma to get help from the federal government, as the SBA supports several types of declared disasters.

The SBA’s disaster program is the agency’s largest and only direct loan program. Under it, the SBA offers two types of disaster loans — physical and economic injury — to assist those affected re-establish with access to low-interest and fixed rate capital during a difficult time.

The physical disaster loans are not just for businesses to rebuild disaster-damaged property and replace equipment. They also are available to non-profits, private homeowners and renters to help with their owned real estate, clothing, furniture, etc. The economic injury loans provide working capital to organizations struggling to meet their financial obligations because of the disaster. Access to those lines of credit to keep the doors open can be the difference between surviving or folding.

Overall, in fiscal year 2016, the SBA assisted more than 46,000 businesses and individuals through $2.8 billion in disaster loans and, since 1953, has approved more than 2 million disaster loans for nearly $55 billion. This includes relief for some of the costliest disasters in U.S. history, including Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, and the Northridge, Calif., earthquake.

Disasters don’t plan ahead, but you can and that preparation can help a business stay in business and individuals recover faster when catastrophe strikes. The SBA supports this planning as well with a variety of resources, including detail on how to create a program, building a preparedness kit, checklists, safety tips, online courses, videos, webinars, etc.

September is National Preparedness Month, making it the ideal time, with plans in place, for businesses and individuals to do test runs. This is especially important for small businesses as they typically have all their operations in one area and, thus a higher risk of not recovering.

Between the disaster loans, various tools and education offerings, the SBA works to help small businesses plan and protect their assets, and, with other federal agencies and partners, assists businesses, homeowners and renters recover quickly when disasters hit.

For more information, visit www.sba.gov/disaster. For specific business-related detail, go to www.sba.gov/prepare and for individual-related detail, visit www.ready.gov.

Gil Goldberg is director of the Cleveland district office of the U.S. Small Business Administration.