On Friday, a large number of local business owners came to the Houston Street Center on the Bowery to hear FEMA and other government officials explain how they can file for relief in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. All of the resources available from the federal, state and local governments have been listed here before. The main message from all of the officials was this: disaster loans are available whether a business suffered physical damage or not. But there was a widespread feeling among the audience that loans are of little use to many small businesses. Sylvester Schneider of Avenue C restaurant and bar Zum Schneider said, “I don’t need a loan. Give me a generator.”
City Council member Margaret Chin expanded on these sentiments in a letter she sent to Governor Cuomo:
I am writing to you on behalf of small business owners in my district who have been absolutely devastated by Hurricane Sandy. I have heard from dozens of restaurants and other shops that are looking at being unable to return for months. Many are businesses that struggled through 9/11 or were encouraged to move down to contribute to the revitalization of the community – and they were only just recently paying off their loans and breaking even. Many have already persevered through years of public reconstruction projects of our streets. Now, Hurricane Sandy has left them with severe physical damage, and the one thing that we keep hearing from all quarters is – “loans are not enough, we need grants if we are going to survive.”… (Without) immediate help, it is possible that all the hard work and government investment to revitalize and redevelop Lower Manhattan will be undone. I’m sure that you know well how drastic the situation is in Lower Manhattan, but I strongly urge you to create a state emergency relief grant program for small businesses and non-profits in the area. If your schedule permits, I would also be very happy to take you around to some of the small businesses that have been affected in my area.
Governor Cuomo is, in fact, asking for federal disaster aid for businesses, including money for grants.
One other note: FEMA and the Small Business Administration have finally set a “pop up assistance site” on the Lower East Side. According to State Senator Daniel Squadron it will be open all this week, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. at Hamilton Madison House, 50 Madison Street.