One year ago today, Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the United States, washing out large swaths of the New Jersey and New York shoreline and devastating thousands of small businesses. Many business owners turned to the Small Business Administration’s disaster loan program and other government aid programs in order to rebuild—but not everyone received the same degree of assistance.
While some businesses reported that disaster relief arrived quickly, allowing them to rebuild within months, others found themselves having to pay for many of their repairs and rebuilding efforts themselves. Some businesses are still awaiting government aid: The SBA has received 14,903 disaster loan applications related to Sandy, yet only 4,111 of those had been approved as of a few days ago, according to Entrepreneur.com.
Robert Kaskel, owner of Thai Rock, a Far Rockaway, New York restaurant, said he applied for a Small Business Administration disaster-relief loan to rebuild his seaside restaurant, which received extensive flooding damage. Kaskel was ultimately denied the SBA loan, however, because he had created a new holding company—Thai Rock Holdings—after the storm. “That was the only source of funding that I had available and they denied me,” Kaskel told Metro. Kaskel ended up taking out a second mortgage on the property and his building contractor agreed to work out a long-term payment plan for him.
Other businesses had more positive experiences with government relief programs, however. Lars Akerlund, who owns five New York City coffee shops called FIKA, suffered about $600,000 in damages to a flooded chocolate factory from Sandy—which his insurer wouldn’t pay because the damage was caused by ocean water, he told BusinessWeek.com.
He called the SBA early in 2013, and within a week was granted a $550,000 loan. That allowed him to reopen all of his shops, as well as the factory. “It took a while to get the loan, but you can understand that,” he says. “Imagine how many thousands of people called them.”
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