More than $350,000 in disaster assistance was presented to two Old Town businesses by the Small Business Administration last Thursday to aid in disaster recovery for damages caused by Hurricane Isabel.
"One of SBA's most important duties is to assist Americans in the aftermath of large scale disasters. Our goal is to respond quickly in making loans and other assistance available in order to help business owners and their communities get back on their feet," said Hector Barreto, administrator, U.S. Small Business Administration.
Receiving the low interest loans were Glenda Giovannoni, president, The Fish Market, and Richard Snow, president, Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Old Town. The ceremony was held in the second floor dining area of the Fish Market, 105 King Street.
In accepting a check for $249,100, Giovannoni noted, "We have 90 employees depending on their paychecks every week. It was imperative we get back to business as soon as possible and this enabled us to do that." The Fish Market suffered extensive damage to its kitchen equipment.
"SBA has helped us to get from being survivors to being providers again," Snow said in acknowledging his check for $106,300. Ben and Jerry's had several feet of water in their 103 Union Street establishment during the height of the storm.
Barreto, who had just returned from the California fire disaster, said, "I've heard people refer to others in California as victims. But, they are not victims. They are survivors. It's all about people helping people."
TO DATE, SBA has issued 60,310 disaster loan applications to Isabel disaster victims. But, they have received only 6,448 of those back for processing, according to Colleen M. Hiam, public information officer, SBA. There have been 1,571 approved loans totaling $41.7 million thus far, she said.
"It is imperative people get their applications into us as soon as possible. One of the reasons for this ceremony [check presentations] is to emphasize that the deadline is fast approaching," she said.
The deadline for filing SBA and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) disaster loan applications has been extended to Dec. 8.
"These programs are extremely helpful. I urge eligible business owners, homeowners, and renters to act quickly to make the most of what the federal government has to offer," Barreto said.
He was joined in that admonition by Virginia's two Republican Senators John W. Warner and George Allen, as well as U.S. Representative James P. Moran (D-8), and Herbert Mitchell, associate administrator for disaster assistance, SBA.
"We are here today to say to the federal taxpayers: 'Your government works,'" Warner said. "Many who preceded us in such disasters faced the same adversities and prevailed. Alexandrians are proud of that heritage."
Allen stressed, "In times of these type disasters, everyone looks to FEMA but don't think much about SBA. It was necessary to get aid quickly to the businesses and that's exactly what we did.
"SBA, with the help of Ken Moore, CEO of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and Bill Reagan, director of the Alexandria Small Business Development Center, put a temporary office here right away to get assistance and information to those that needed it. We want to make sure businesses get back to vitality as soon as possible," said Allen.
MORAN ALSO praised the SBA for its prompt action and follow through. "This is the way government relief is supposed to work," he pointed out. "It's on need, not politics."
Appreciation for SBA's rapid response also came from city officials in attendance. "The SBA came quickly front and center. They have been extremely responsive. Of all the Federal and State agencies that has assisted us since the flood, first on our list for responsiveness is SBA," said Mark Jinks, assistant city manager for fiscal and financial affairs.
Joining Jinks, Moore, and Reagan from the city to participate in the ceremony was Alexandria Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper. "I have been so impressed with the way our businesses have bounced back. That is why Alexandria works and survives," she said.
As noted by Moran, the money distributed last Thursday by SBA was a loan, not a grant. Such loans cover uninsured or otherwise uncompensated losses. Interest rates on SBA loans can be as low as 2.562 percent with terms up to 30 years.
Loans to businesses and nonprofit organizations are available up to $1.5 million to repair disaster-damaged real estate, machinery and equipment, and inventory. Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available to small businesses unable to pay bills or meet operating expenses because of a disaster.
SBA offers loans up to $200,000 to repair disaster damaged primary residences. Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to replace damaged personal property such as furniture and clothing.
Hurricane victims may still obtain loan information by visiting SBA's website at www.sba.gov/disaster or by calling SBA at 1-800-659-2955 or 1-800-877-8339, for the hearing impaired. However, the first step in the process is to call FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to register, according to SBA.