Companies with fewer than 10 employees make up 95% of small businesses—in fact, solo entrepreneurs make up more than 78% of all businesses. These tiny enterprises rank among the most vulnerable in the best of times. In a natural disaster, they can be completely wiped out.
Unfortunately, resources available to help them recover are limited, as small business owners in hurricane-ravaged Texas and Florida are learning. But even limited help can make the difference between survival and extinction. Here are some of the agencies and programs that can assist small businesses in federally declared disaster areas.
Resources for small business relief
The Small Business Administration (SBA)
The SBA’s disaster loan program offers low-interest federal disaster loans of up to $2 million to businesses of all sizes. The SBA also provides a 12-month deferment of principal and interest payments on existing loans in counties designated as federal disaster areas.
The Business & Industry (B&I) Guaranteed Loan Program
This B&I program guarantees loans for businesses that are based in or provide services to rural communities. These guarantees give private lenders more flexibility to offer more credit than they normally could.
Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief Program for Individuals and Businesses
This program allows expedited tax refunds, offering a cash lifeline to small businesses that might not survive long enough to receive their refund at the usual time. Here’s how it works: Small business owners in a federally declared disaster area can file an amended tax return for the prior year claiming damaged or lost property, enabling them to get money back from the IRS right away.
You can also consult a tax attorney to learn about all your options.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
You can’t get your business back up and running when you don’t have a place to live. Like other Americans, small business owners can seek assistance from FEMA. An online questionnaire helps applicants learn which types of assistance they qualify for.
Emergency food programs
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides food assistance to low-income households. In the aftermath of a disaster, D-SNAP—a special variant of SNAP—provides temporary eligibility to families who would not normally qualify but who are suffering from food loss or damage caused by the disaster. So far, the D-SNAP program has already been established in areas of
The Texas Black Expo set up a GoFundMe to assist entrepreneurs affected by Hurricane Harvey. They are distributing awards to small business owners who apply online as money is received. Most local efforts like this one never receive national attention. Local Small Business Development Centers and Chambers of Commerce are good resources for finding those local recovery programs for independent businesses.
Small businesses will also be counting on their insurance companies for relief. But for many, collecting on insurance claims can prove difficult, especially since many insurance companies in hurricane zones are smaller firms themselves.
Those seeking more information can also consult the Avvo Q&A page, offering free advice from local business attorneys.