LIA: Small Business is Key to Recovery

Written by Amy Gernon  |  19. December 2012

Small businesses are the key to local recovery following Superstorm Sandy and more help is needed from the federal government, according to local business advocates.  

Superstorm Sandy destroyed 265,000 businesses in New York, many of those on Long Island and in New York City.  
The Long Island Association, the region’s largest organization of large and small businesses from a variety of industries, has been actively advocating for business relief following the devastation caused by Sandy.  
Kevin Law, president of LIA and vice chairman of the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, who formerly served as CEO of LIPA, testified in Washington last Thursday about the federal response efforts after the storm devastated the area.  Law was the only local representative to speak before the U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship
He is calling for the federal government to make grants available to small businesses that need cash now.  "After this storm and in this economy, small business owners are resistant to taking on more debt," Law said before the panel.
“Small businesses, often living week to week, have fewer reserves and are more dependent on daily cash flow and thus rebuilding on loans alone is problematic.  Thus, I urge you to consider expanding FEMA’s grant program for individuals to include small businesses or to enhance the SBA's programs so that it includes grants to small businesses as well,” Law testified.   He explained that the interest associated with loans offered by the SBA would be too expensive for small business owners who lost everything, or nearly everything, after Sandy, though he approved of extending the deadline for business owners to request the aid. 
Long Island Business News reported that as of last week, only $3 million in loans had been approved for 31 Long Island businesses, an extremely low rate considering the number of businesses affected.   “Many business owners are still regrouping to get their lives and businesses back to normal and have not had the opportunity yet to apply for aid, or they may still be unaware of the resources available to them,” Law said, reaffirming the need for the extended deadline despite low participation in the program. 
SBA Administrator Karen Mills was invited to discuss the issues concerning Long Island’s small business owners prior to Law’s testimony in Washington.  Mills heard Long Islanders speak about the problems with applying for SBA loans, which require tax documentation that new businesses won’t be able to furnish for previous years.  
Law has also been working alongside Long Island Regional Economic Development Council co-vice chairman and Hofstra University president, Stuart Rabinowitz, calling for a plan to rebuild sewage treatment plants and the electric grid to better withstand the next major storm.  Law and Rabinowitz have been working with the 50-member development council to formulate recommendations post-Sandy repairs.  
The partnership is also looking for ways to improve local communication systems, public housing and protection for coastal dunes which were obliterated in many areas by Sandy’s strong winds and harsh surges.
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