LI small businesses seek aid for Sandy loss

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Melissa Wawrzonek's specialty tea shop in Northport didn't suffer physical damage from superstorm Sandy, and the store lost power for just one day.

But with many customers dealing with their own devastation, she said sales at her Clipper Ship Tea Co. have fallen 55 percent this month.

"People aren't concerned with gift shopping if they had a tree on their house, or a tree on their car," Wawrzonek said Wednesday, as Nassau and Suffolk lawmakers came together to highlight that small businesses, like hers, are largely ineligible for federal storm relief funding.

Leaders of both county legislatures have written to Democratic Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand, requesting an expansion of federal disaster relief programs to cover more storm-related small business revenue losses. Large businesses, they say, have lost-revenue insurance, or can simply sustain the losses.

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"They're the forgotten group of people," said Suffolk Legis. Lynne Nowick (R-St. James).

The lawmakers acknowledge that small businesses are eligible to receive low-interest loans. But they wrote that "the prospect of additional debt of any kind is simply more than these local businesses can bear."

Aides said Gillibrand and Schumer were aware of the issue, and want to ensure that some of the $32 billion in federal storm aid sought by New York goes to offset small-business revenue losses.

Gillibrand wants to ensure "more flexible funding" in the aid package, a spokesman said. Schumer said in a statement that while low-interest loans are available, often times they are not enough. That is why we are working closely with the [Small Business] Administration and business officials on innovative new programs to get emergency funding as quickly as possible to those who need it."

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