U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, and congressmen Chris Collins and Brian Higgins today wrote to Small Business Administration Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet urging the SBA to prepare to swiftly administer disaster assistance to the Western New York region.
County officials have said they expect the cost of this disaster to meet the criteria needed for federal support, and, if it does, Schumer, Gillibrand, Collins and Higgins have said small business owners who incurred losses due to the storm should be able to seek SBA disaster assistance.
For small business owners, many of whom have had to shut down for the past week, this federal assistance would be necessary to start the rebuilding process as soon as possible. The lawmakers said up to $2 million in SBA loan assistance is available to small businesses not fully covered by private insurance policies.
The SBA also will be able to provide low-interest loans of up to $40,000 to qualified renters and homeowners to replace personal property, and up to $200,000 to homeowners to repair or replace damaged homes. Schumer, Gillibrand, Collins and Higgins are urging the SBA to be ready to quickly assess the damage so small business owners, renters and homeowners may be quickly approved for any disaster funding in the impacted counties, including Erie, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Genesee and Wyoming, if they qualify.
In their letter, Schumer, Gillibrand, Collins and Higgins write: "As the total snow and flooding damage is assessed by state and federal officials, we fully anticipate a presidential-level disaster declaration facilitating Federal Emergency Management Agency support. It is imperative that the SBA act now to ensure loans and disaster response procedures are prepared, and also that the SBA be ready to make its own agency-level disaster declaration, should the need arise."
"It is critical that we get federal resources and agencies, like the Small Business Administration, on the ground as soon as possible, so that Erie County and the other impacted Western New York counties can recover and rebuild after this severe weather," Schumer said. "The SBA must stand ready to approve a federal disaster declaration and provide all forms of available aid for impacted homeowners and businesses, including low-interest loans to help small businesses that have lost inventory and customers get back on their feet."
"Western New York homeowners and businesses that weathered this storm should not have to bear the burden of cleanup costs on their own," Gillibrand said. "As small businesses in areas hit hardest by the storm assess the damages, and with the potential for severe flooding, it is critical that all federal resources are made available. SBA disaster loans will go a long way in helping families and businesses get back on their feet, and begin to recover. I will continue to do all that I can to ensure that all possible resources are accessible to communities impacted by this snow storm."
"With hundreds of small businesses in Western New York being unable to operate over the past week due to this historic weather disaster, federal resources need to be made available immediately upon a disaster declaration," Collins said. "As a small business owner myself, I understand the catastrophic impact an unforeseen weather event like this can have on a business. The additional damages expected to impact businesses operations as a result of flooding have only exacerbated the need for this critical federal assistance."
"Local business is an integral part of the Western New York community and economy," Higgins said. "It is nearly impossible for owners to prepare for the lost business and potential property damage caused by this recent storm. I encourage swift federal assistance to help small business owners recover from this natural disaster."