Entrepreneurs can do a lot to control their destiny, but there is little they can do about the weather. Hurricane Irene's destructive path has devastated small businesses all along the eastern seaboard and Tropical Storm Lee hit New Orleans hard.
Businesses recovering from storm damage must have repairs made immediately, incur the deductable amounts of their insurance policies, and wait weeks or sometimes months for their claims to be processed. Being short on cash could put some of them in serious danger. Many small business owners do not have months’ worth of cash on hand to cover months or even weeks of delayed revenue.
Fortunately, there are a number of financial options available to small business owners looking to rebuild. Business owners can approach the government for FEMA assistance due to the damages inflicted by the storm. Sections of North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, and Vermont have been declared federal disaster areas. However, funding is becoming politicized, and FEMA money may be running out soon, so small business owners must not delay. The application is available here.
Many businesses damaged by Hurricane Irene are also able to get loans from the Small Business Administration. The SBA grants two types of disaster loans. One is a "Physical Disaster Loan" that provides money for replacing or repairing damaged property. Such loans are extended to businesses located in federal disaster areas, and the loans extend up to $2 million. The second type of loan is "Economic Injury Disaster Loan," or EIDL. This loan is meant to help businesses pay fixed operating expenses such as rent, mortgage interest, and lease payments on equipment. Businesses are eligible to take advantage of EIDL loans even if they do not suffer damages.
Even the IRS is granting leniency. In areas that are declared storm affected, the IRS has postponed tax filing and payment deadlines for businesses and taxpayers. That means corporations now have up to October 31st to file their returns.
Meanwhile, businesses impacted by Irene should quickly put in their insurance claims, continue to manage cash flow carefully during this rough period, and tap into their business lines of credit if need be. Those that do not have lines of credit should do so immediately. Delays in funding from insurance companies and government assistance can put small businesses at risk. A business line of credit is a good source of money on the day after a rainy day.
A frequently quoted expert on small business lending and recently named the Top Entrepreneur of 2011 by Crain’s New York Business, Rohit Arora is CEO of Biz2Credit, which connects small business owners with 300 lenders, credit rating agencies and service providers. Since 2007, Biz2Credit has secured $400 million in funding for small businesses in New York and across the U.S. via its safe, efficient online platform.