Disaster press release 23-511

vSBA Offers Disaster Assistance to Pennsylvania Small Businesses Affected by Explosion at the R.M. Palmer Company Factory

WASHINGTON – Pennsylvania small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small aquaculture businesses, and private nonprofit organizations affected by the explosion at the R.M. Palmer Company factory in West Reading Borough, on March 24, 2023, may apply for low-interest Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) from the U.S. Small Business Administration, SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman announced today.

Administrator Guzman made the loans available in response to a letter from Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro on June 27, 2023, requesting a disaster declaration by the SBA. Eligible applicants in the declared area can now apply for low-interest disaster loans from the SBA. The declaration covers Berks County and the adjacent counties of Chester, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Montgomery and Schuylkill in Pennsylvania.      

“SBA’s mission-driven team stands ready to help Pennsylvania small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small aquaculture businesses, and private nonprofit organizations impacted by the March 24 explosion at the R.M. Palmer Company factory in West Reading Borough,” said Administrator Guzman. “We’re committed to providing federal disaster loans swiftly and efficiently, with a customer-centric approach to help businesses and communities recover and rebuild.”

"After the devastating explosion at the R.M. Palmer Company, our hearts go out to the families of the seven lives lost and all those who were injured," said Francisco Sánchez, Jr., Associate Administrator for the Office of Disaster Recovery and Resilience at the Small Business Administration. “We are committed to extending our support through a Declaration of Economic Injury Disaster in five counties across the state. SBA aims to provide a lifeline, ensuring affected businesses receive the necessary resources they require in this difficult time. Together, we will overcome this tragedy, and emerge stronger than ever before.”

To assist businesses affected by the disaster, the SBA will open a Business Recovery Center (BRC) in Berks County on July 7, 2023, at the location and time as indicated below:

SBA Business Recovery Center (BRC)

Berks County   

The Borough of West Reading Fire Department

223 Playground Drive

West Reading, PA 19611


Opening:      Friday, July 7, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.  


Open:             Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.

                          Saturday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.                         

Closed:          Sunday,

                          Friday, July 14


Closing Permanently: Friday, July 21 at 6 p.m.


Customer Service Representatives will be available at the BRC to answer questions about the disaster loan program and help business owners complete their applications.

“For eligible applicants, the SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster,” said SBA’s Philadelphia District Director Steven R. Dixel.

Interest rates are 4 percent for businesses and 2.375 percent for nonprofit organizations, with terms up to 30 years.  Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at DisasterLoanAssistance.sba.gov/ela/s and should apply under SBA declaration # 17973,

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 emailing DisasterCustomerService@sba.gov. Loan applications may be downloaded at sba.gov/disaster Completed applications should be returned to the center or mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

The filing deadline to return economic injury applications is March 28, 2024.



About the U.S. Small Business Administration 

Recently, U.S. SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman announced a policy change granting 12 months of no payments and 0 percent interest.  This pertains to all disaster loans approved in response to disasters declared on or after Sept. 21, 2022, through Sept. 30, 2023. This policy change will benefit disaster survivors and help them to decrease the overall cost of recovery by reducing the amount of accrued interest they must repay. Details are available through the SBA Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955. Individuals with verbal or hearing impairments may dial 7-1-1 to access telecommunications relay services from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, Monday to Friday, or email: DisasterCustomerService@sba.gov. 

The U.S. Small Business Administration helps power the American dream of business ownership. As the only go-to resource and voice for small businesses backed by the strength of the federal government, the SBA empowers entrepreneurs and small business owners with the resources and support they need to start, grow, expand their businesses, or recover from a declared disaster. It delivers services through an extensive network of SBA field offices and partnerships with public and private organizations. To learn more, visit www.sba.gov. 

Related programs: Disaster

Media contacts

Michael Lampton