Those in the know will be helping small businesses and homeowners affected by Hurricane Sandy fill out somewhat daunting paperwork in Long Island City next Monday and Tuesday.
“The federal forms can look a little scary,” said Alana Chavez with the U.S. Small Business Administration, which has an office in the LaGuardia Community College Campus at 30-20 Thomson Ave., Suite B-A02.
“I’m old school. I don’t know how to do the paperwork,” said Gianna Cerbone-Teoli, the chef-owner of Manducatis Rustica, the loction where Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens, Manhattan) held Tuesday’s town hall about relief forms.
In times of disaster, the SBA teams up with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help out. That’s why in addition to government forms being verbose and thus confusing by nature, some individuals might have been confused about which and what forms to fill out, Chavez said. However, a completed SBA loan application is needed in order to qualify for state and Federal Emergency Management Agency grants that cover personal property, vehicle repair or replacement, moving and storage expenses and other help.
But Chavez said “don’t do my job and try to see if you qualify, just fill them out,” and the SBA will go from there.
The deadline for registration with FEMA is Dec. 31. Individuals can file with SBA until June, according to Maloney’s office.
“Everyone should register. You might have something you don’t even know about yet,” Maloney said. “I don’t want to see a single business close, because the aid is out there.”
About fifty people filled Manducatis Rustica Restaurant at 46-31 Vernon Blvd. on Tuesday to get answers about FEMA and SBA forms, and pledged to come back for more help.
Retail Aid Pos Solutions in Long Island City was not directly affected by the storm, but could be eligible for an economic mitigation loan because the business lost income when some customers could not afford its service post-Sandy. Similarily, a yellow taxi company, which said thousands of drivers went without work because of gas shortages, could be eligible for relief.
Manducatis, whose basement flooded during the superstorm, will again open its doors on Nov. 26 and 27 for additional help.
But Chris Mazzarella, whose father owns the Waterfront Crab House on Borden Avenue, wants more than help on forms.
“SBA needs to get down there,” Mazzarella said. “You need to walk down and see the devastation.”
The Crab House was one of Long Island City’s most damaged businesses, Maloney said. On the night of the storm the restaurant filled with about five feet of water.
Owner Tony Mazzarella has been scrubbing and cleaning his business every day since, Chris said. Maloney said she would set up a community cleanup at the restaurant, which still does not have power and is opperating on generators.
An apartment building, the Foundry, at 42-38 9 St. also has no power. Officials there have told home owners they may not move back for another six months becuase a switch gear needs refabrication.
So far, more than 204,000 New Yorkers have contacted FEMA for information or to register, and more than $449 million has been approved. Forms can be accessed at disasterassistance.gov.
Businesses of any size are eligible for loans up to $2 million with interest rates of 4 percent. Once an individual is approved for a set amount of money, they are not required to accept it, Chavez said, and then the person has two months to decide on the offer. People who have credit problems can apply with a co-borrower.
“People say I have all this damage and now I have to take a loan?” Chavez said. “Unfortunately that’s what we have. Fortunately, it’s there.”
The SBA can take up to 21 days to answer the applicant. However, an unsecured $14,000 can be doled out within a few days of an answer and the total a few days after that, Chavez said.
If the loan is less than $14,000, there’s no collateral. Homeowners are eligible for up to $200,000 in loans to rebuild and $40,000 to replace the contents of the their home and car. Renters are also eligible for the $40,000 loan.
Straight FEMA aid doesn’t pertain to businessess, but ensures a homeowner or renter has a safe, secure and sanitary place to live, FEMA representative Colby Santon said.
If the SBA determines the business owner cannot afford a loan, their application is kicked back to FEMA, which can’t give full disaster assistance, but can provide some relief.