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Federal Rep: Loans Can Help Repair Beyond Physical Damage Post-Sandy

Though the North Fork wasn’t hit the hardest physically by Hurricane Sandy, help is available for long-term economic recovery for the area, says federal spokesman.

While Assemblyman Fred Thiele reminded Patch readers of the Jan. 28 deadline to apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance for Hurricane Sandy damage, a federal representative of the U.S. Small Business Administration reminded a group from the North Fork Promotion Council that other loans are available through July 31 to help businesses recover economically.

Burl Kelton, a spokesperson for the SBA, talked to the promotion council during a meeting Thursday night about financial assistance from the government designed to boost businesses and regions that might not have been hit the hardest physically by Sandy but are now feeling the longer-term blow of lost customers and revenue.

Even with no physical damage, small businesses and most private non-profits can apply for up to $2 million for economic injury loans to meet working capital needs through the end of July. Kelton said that $643 million from these funds has already been approved for businesses throughout New York State and about $3.7 million of that has been approved for over 40 business in Suffolk County.

Interest rates for economic injury loans are 3 percent for non-profit organizations and 4 percent for businesses of any size with loan repayment terms up to 30 years.

“The damage is more than physical as you know — people have had to make up for payroll, rent, marketing costs,” Kelton said. “As more time goes by, the widespread economic effects of Sandy are now being fully realized everywhere.”

Joan Bischoff van Heemskerck of Town and Country Real Estate and president of the North Fork Promotion Council agreed that it’s only now that many North Fork business people are feeling the economic hurt after Sandy.

“We almost feel guilty out here, where we didn’t get too much physical damage,” he said. “We feel like we shouldn’t complain too much. But the economic consequences are only starting to come to us now.”

Several council members at the meeting are owners of local bed and breakfasts — one of the industries hit hardest economically by Sandy. Marilyn Marks, owner of Shorecrest Bed and Breakfast on Route 48 across the street from the Long Island Sound in Southold, said the past three months have been the worst she’s experienced.

“We basically lost November,” she said. “And I just gave up in December.”

Marks said she’s probably going to apply for the economic injury loan, as she like many others on the North Fork did not have much physical damage save from losing a walkway and some beach across the street on her property. Marks has an international clientele and said she thinks that it’s a widespread misconception that the North Fork was just as badly damaged as waterfront communities like Long Beach.

“My customers from Europe though we were washed away,” she said.

Though some local hotels were filled for a time with utility and construction crews immediately after Sandy, that boost came and went and has left many in a slump beyond the winter doldrums. Kelton said that the application process is being kept open through July as more businesses become aware that they really might need help.

“Many have not applied yet, because naturally business people don’t want to take on more debt — they just want to get back to business,” he said. “The priority with the federal government here is to make sure that we keep communities vibrant and businesses alive until they can bounce back on their own.”

Apply online to SBA at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela

Are you a business owner who is just now feeling the economic hurt post-Sandy? Tell us your story in the comments.

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