Norma Houston is a School of Government faculty member.
In the wake of Hurricane Irene, as is the case after any major disaster, communities struggle to clean-up, rebuild, and get back to work. In counties covered by a presidential major disaster declaration, FEMA assistance may be available to eligible individuals and families under the Individual Assistance program (call 1-800- 621-3362 to begin the process to apply for assistance, or register online at DisasterAssistance.gov). But what about businesses and non-profits? Is there help for them? Yes.
What triggers federal disaster assistance?
The presidential disaster declaration that triggers federal Individual Assistance (assistance to individuals and families) and U.S. SBA programs is called a Major Disaster Declaration. A major disaster declaration is issued when the President believes the disaster has caused damage of such severity that it is beyond the combined capabilities of state and local governments to respond. Because this type of declaration is based on the estimated levels of damage and economic loss caused by the disaster, it may take several days for the declaration to be issued. Local damage assessment teams conduct damage assessments and transmit the information to the state, where it is compiled and sent by the Governor to FEMA, requesting a major presidential declaration (sometimes FEMA preliminary damage assessment teams must confirm the level of damage before a major disaster declaration is issued). If issued, the presidential major disaster declaration will specify which counties are covered, thus making individuals, businesses, and nonprofits within those counties eligible for federal assistance. Not all federal assistance programs are activated for every disaster. The determination of which programs are authorized is based on the types of assistance specified in the Governor’s request and on the needs identified during federal and state preliminary damage assessments (PDA’s) and any subsequent PDAs.
A number of federal, state, and private organizations can provide recovery assistance to individuals, families, and businesses in the aftermath of a disaster. Assistance programs for businesses provided by two organizations – the SBTDC and the U.S. SBA – are described below.
Help from SBTDC
The North Carolina Small Business and Technology Development Center (SBTDC) provides disaster recovery assistance for small and mid-sized business owners in the aftermath of a disaster. The SBTDC is the business and technology extension service of the University of North Carolina. It is administered by North Carolina State and operated in partnership with US Small Business Administration. It provides a variety of services and programs that assist small businesses in our state, including disaster recovery assistance.
SBTDC has trained disaster-experienced business counselors who can help small and mid-sized business owners:
- Assess the financial impact on their business;
- Reconstruct financial statements;
- Evaluate options with creditors; and
- If a federal disaster declaration is approved, prepare U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loan applications.
The services that the SBTDC provides are not dependent on a presidential declaration, so their counselors are available in the immediate aftermath of a disaster to assist businesses in impacted areas even if the business is not located in a county covered under a presidential declaration.
For more information, visit the SBTDC’s Disaster Recovery website, call 1-800-258-0862 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Impacted businesses can also call the N.C. Department of Commerce Business Link at 1-800-228-8443.
Help from SBA
If the President issues a major disaster declaration, this action makes federal funding and US Small Business Administration loan programs available to help individuals and businesses in counties covered under the presidential declaration. Federal assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster. SBA loans are available in 3 basic categories:
- Home Disaster Loans – Loans to homeowners or renters to repair or replace disaster-damaged real estate or personal property owned by the victim. Renters are eligible to receive loans in order to replace lost personal property, including automobiles.
- Business Physical Disaster Loans – Loans to businesses to repair or replace disaster-damaged property owned by the business, including real estate, inventories, supplies, machinery and equipment. Businesses of any size are eligible. Private, non-profit organizations such as charities, churches, private universities, etc., are also eligible.
- Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) – Working capital loans to help small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private, non-profit organizations of all sizes meet their ordinary and necessary financial obligations that cannot be met as a direct result of the disaster. These loans are intended to assist through the disaster recovery period.
The types of federal loans and other federal assistance programs available to impacted communities are based on the level of damage and economic losses in the county. As assessments of damage and economic losses continue in the aftermath of a disaster, presidential declarations might be expanded to cover additional counties or increase the categories of assistance available for individuals and business owners in declared counties. Businesses and individuals in impacted areas can contact their county emergency management office, the State Division of Emergency Management, or FEMA to find out whether their county is covered under a presidential declaration.
Individuals, business owners, and non-profits who sustained losses in the presidentially declared counties can begin applying for assistance by registering online at http://www.disasterassistance.gov, by web enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).
How can community and economic development organizations help?
Community and economic development organizations can be instrumental in helping their communities recover and rebuild after a disaster. One of the most difficult challenges in the immediate aftermath of any major disaster is communicating information to impacted families and businesses to connect them with the programs and agencies that can assist them. Disaster victims can be overwhelmed with the daunting task of cleaning up, repairing, and reopening their businesses as well as putting their personal lives back together. They may not have access to internet service (or even computers), may not have phone service restored, and may not even be able to live in their own homes. Community and economic development organizations can partner with the SBTDC and their local emergency management operations to help get the word out about recover assistance programs. For more information about the role community and economic development organizations can play in emergency management and disaster recovery, see this previous blog post.