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When Disaster Strikes, the Federal Team Rallies for You

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By Carl Knoblock

President Ronald Reagan once said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are; ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’”
However, in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, business owners, nonprofits and many others need to know they can count on government agencies for assistance, especially if they are underinsured.
And like so many organizations that swoop in to aid in relief efforts, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is a member of a team that is here to help.
During and immediately following natural and manmade disasters, federally-backed agencies/entities, such as the National Guard, U.S. Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency, engage alongside state, county and municipal first responders to ensure the safety of those affected. Once the scene stabilizes and thoughts turn to rebuilding, SBA is there with federally-backed loans to help not just businesses, but nonprofits, homeowners and renters.
Maryland is no stranger to natural and manmade calamities, and SBA continues to be there. For example last year’s historic flooding in Ellicott City is proof you don’t need a Harvey- or Irma-scale event to get help from the federal government. In fiscal 2016, the SBA offered 30 Maryland disaster assistance loans valued at more than $2.2 million to victims of the Ellicott City flooding and agricultural operations affected by drought.
SBA’s disaster program is the agency’s largest (and only) direct loan program offering physical and economic injury loans. This federal program enables those in affected areas to re-establish their homes and businesses with low-interest and fixed-rate capital access loan programs during difficult times.
Physical disaster loans aren’t just for businesses to rebuild. They’re also available to nonprofits, private homeowners and renters to help with owned real estate, clothing, furniture, etc. Economic injury loans provide working capital to organizations struggling to meet financial obligations. Access to lines of credit to keep the doors open can be the difference between surviving and throwing in the towel.
Overall, in fiscal 2016, the SBA assisted more than 46,000 businesses and individuals through $2.8 billion in disaster loans; since 1953, it has approved more than two million disaster loans totaling nearly $55 billion. This includes relief for some of the costliest disasters in U.S. history, including hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, and the Northridge, Calif., earthquake.
As we’ve wrapped National Preparedness Month (at the end of September), it is important to remember that disasters don’t plan ahead — but you can. Preparation can help your business stay open and your family to recover faster. SBA supports this planning, as well, with a variety of resources, including details on how to create a program and build a preparedness kit, checklists, safety tips, online courses, videos, webinars, etc.
Between the disaster loans, various tools, and educational workshops and webinars, the SBA works to help small businesses plan and protect their assets, and with other federal agencies and partners, assists businesses, homeowners and renters to recover quickly when disasters hit.

Carl Knoblock is the acting mid-Atlantic regional administrator for the Small Business Administration.