ATLANTA – According to business owner Chad Kittrell, Duval Partners, LLC, “Without the assistance of a disaster loan from SBA, we would have shut down.” Kittrell and his partner J.T. Burnette were heavily involved in renovating their newly purchased hotel property in downtown Tallahassee when Tropical Storm Fay struck in August, 2008. “Hurricanes are nothing new in Florida” said Kittrell, “You do the best to prepare but even with your best efforts you cannot cover everything.”
In the aftermath of 2008’s Tropical Storm Fay, flights out of Tallahassee Regional Airport were cancelled, roads were closed due to flooding and areas were without power. Staff and guests were evacuated from the Hotel Duval. Kittrell and Burnette were staring at significant physical and financial losses for their new business venture. Fortunately, they looked to the U.S. Small Business Administration for help.
“Although we had insurance, a settlement could take years,” said Kittrell. Due to a presidential disaster declaration, SBA’s disaster assistance program was activated. Accordingly to Wilfredo Gonzalez, district director in SBA’s office in Jacksonville, “SBA’s disaster assistance program is the only time the agency can lend to homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes. SBA approved 415 disaster loans (331 home loans and 84 business loans), totaling $18,572,000 for Tropical Storm Fay.”
There are a lot of “mom and pop” type businesses and rental properties that sustained damage from Tropical Storm Debby, that began on June 23, 2012. According to current statistics, roughly 40 to 60 percent of small businesses never reopen their doors following a disaster. “That is why business owners are encouraged to apply for an SBA disaster loan as soon as possible,” said Gonzalez.
“You do not have to wait on insurance to be settled or have a construction estimate before applying. Applying for a disaster loan can be accomplished by computer by completing an Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. We hope business owners will take advantage of this program and apply as soon as possible,” said SBA Regional Administrator Cassius Butts.
“I am pleased to know that SBA’s disaster program has been instrumental in the recovery of Hotel Duval. The hotel is an integral part of the Tallahassee business community that brings in revenue from guests, employees, vendors which all help the local economy. Mr. Kittrell reports that SBA disaster business loan it received was indispensable and their hotel has significantly increased its revenue and tripled the number of employees since the disaster.”
“We are proud that small businesses such as hotels, restaurants, and shops like Duval Partners, LLC have connected with SBA for their financial needs, especially in times of a disaster. I hope that businesses impacted by Tropical Storm Debby will take advantage of SBA’s Disaster Loan Program too,” said Butts.
Businesses of all sizes in eligible counties can apply for up to $2 million to repair/replace inventory, machinery and equipment, furniture and fixtures, leasehold improvements and other business assets. For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquacultural, and most private nonprofit organizations of all sizes, the SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. EIDL assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any physical property damage.
The SBA may increase a loan up to 20 percent of the total amount of disaster damage to real estate and/or leasehold improvements, as verified by SBA, to make improvements that lessen the risk of property damage by future disasters of the same kind.
Florida Small Business Development Center’s (FSBDC) certified business continuity consultants are available for one-on-one assistance to help business owners prepare financial statements, complete the SBA loan application and navigate through the recovery process at no cost. To schedule an appointment, contact a business continuity consultant with the Florida SBDC Network at 850-473-7800 or toll-free at 1-866-737-7232.
To be considered for all forms of disaster assistance, homeowners and renters should call the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at 800-621-FEMA (3362), (TTY) 800-462-7585 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing and register. SBA disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for loans up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property.
Disaster loan information and application forms may also be obtained by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Loan applications can be downloaded from www.sba.gov. Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.
The deadline to return SBA applications for physical property damage is September 4, 2012. The deadline to return applications for economic injury is April 3, 2013.
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For more information about the SBA’s Disaster Loan Programs, visit our website at www.sba.gov.