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SBA is ready to help when disaster strikes

By Carl Knoblock

Ronald Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help.’”

However, in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, business owners, nonprofits and many others need to know they can count on government agencies for assistance, especially if they are underinsured.

Like so many organizations that swoop in to aid in relief efforts, the U.S. Small Business Administration is a member of a team that is here to help.

During and immediately following natural and man-made disasters, federally backed agencies and entities such as the National Guard, Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency engage alongside state, county and municipal first responders to ensure the safety of those affected.

Once the scene stabilizes and thoughts turn to rebuilding, SBA is there with federally backed loans to help not just businesses, but nonprofits, homeowners and renters.

Virginia is no stranger to natural and man-made calamities, and SBA was there. For example, we provided Economic Injury Disaster Loans following excessive rain and flooding last September in Suffolk and Southampton, and after drought struck Lee and Scott County last November — proof you don’t need a Harvey or Irma-scale event to get help from the federal government.

SBA’s disaster program is the agency’s largest and only direct loan program offering both physical and economic injury loans. This federal program enables those in affected areas to re-establish their homes and businesses with low-interest and fixed-rate capital access loan programs during difficult times.

Physical disaster loans aren’t just for businesses to rebuild. They’re also available to nonprofits, private homeowners and renters to help with owned real estate, clothing, furniture and the like.

Economic injury loans provide working capital to organizations struggling to meet financial obligations. Access to lines of credit to keep the doors open can be the difference between surviving and throwing in the towel.

Overall in FY16, the SBA assisted more than 46,000 businesses and individuals through $2.8 billion in disaster loans, and since 1953, it has approved more than two million disaster loans totaling $55 billion.

This includes relief for some of the costliest disasters in U.S. history, including hurricanes Sandy and Katrina and the Northridge, Calif., earthquake.

As we wrap up National Preparedness Month, it is important to remember that disasters don’t plan ahead, but you can. Preparation can help your business stay open and your family to recover faster. SBA supports this planning, as well, with a variety of resources, including detail on how to create a program, building a preparedness kit, checklists, safety tips, online courses, videos, webinars and more. All of those resources can be found on the agency’s website, www.sba.gov.

Between the disaster loans, various tools and educational workshops and webinars, the SBA works to help small businesses plan and protect their assets, and, with other federal agencies and partners, assists businesses, homeowners and renters to recover quickly when disasters hit.

Carl Knoblock is the acting mid-Atlantic regional administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration.