The top Federal Emergency Management Agency official in New York State said Friday that FEMA was open to extending the Dec. 31 deadline for small businesses to apply for disaster loans related to superstorm Sandy.
"If we have to extend the deadline, we will work with the SBA on that," Michael Byrne, FEMA coordinating officer in the state, said, referring to the U.S. Small Business Administration. SBA runs the disaster loans program for FEMA.
"But we have to hear from the community," he told Newsday. "We aren't going to do it automatically."
Small-business owners have 60 days after a natural disaster to apply for low-interest loans to make repairs, purchase merchandise and pay for other work necessary to reopen. Interest rates on the loans start at 1.688 percent per year, and the term can be as long as 30 years.
Byrne, a former Bayville resident and New York City firefighter, told Newsday he was concerned that businesses hurt by Sandy haven't yet applied for aid. As of last week, SBA had received 361 loan applications from Long Island and awarded eight loans totaling $1.3 million, according to SBA data.
Byrne's comments at Newsday's Melville headquarters came as members of the congressional delegation publicly called for a deadline extension to May 1 during a news conference at New York City Hall. The nine members included Reps. Carolyn McCarthy (D-Mineola) and Peter King (R-Seaford).
McCarthy said, "Folks are just starting to get their properties and paperwork back in order, and they need more time to find out about and apply for these critical resources."
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan) agreed, saying, "These businesses are the backbone of our economy, and unless they get the help they need, many of them will close their doors."
SBA officials urged business owners to go to its website, sba.gov, for loan information or to email disastercustomerser email@example.com.
With Sid Cassese
Sandy aid for small businesses
NYS Fund, 1-855-697-SANDY or www.esd.ny.gov/StormRecovery.asp
NYS Small Business Development Centers, 1-800-732-7232 or www.nyssbdc.org/
Sales tax exemption for repairs
Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency, 631-853-4802 or www.suffolkida.org/post/click-here-for-sales-tax-relief-program-overview/
U.S. Department of Labor, http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov/unemploy/disaster.asp
-- Compiled by James T. Madore