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Rep. Israel to NYS: Businesses need Sandy grants

Rep. Steve Israel visits Over the Bridge and

Rep. Steve Israel visits Over the Bridge and the store's owner Gerianne Reilly in Bayville. (Feb. 21, 2013) Credit: Ed Betz

A Long Island congressman wants some federal disaster recovery money directed to businesses that suffered losses in superstorm Sandy.

Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington) Thursday asked that New York State use some of its anticipated funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to help small businesses that might be unable to get federal help the usual way -- via loans from the Small Business Administration or Federal Emergency Management Agency. Israel says many businesses already are overleveraged and cannot take on more loans.

He said HUD "community development block grants" were given to businesses in states affected by Hurricanes Rita and Katrina in 2005.

The congressman issued the call at a news conference at Over the Bridge, a Bayville garden and gift store that was damaged by the storm and saw thousands of dollars in merchandise destroyed. "Almost four months after Hurricane Sandy hit, many of our small businesses are still trying to pick up the pieces," Israel said in a statement.

The Long Island Association business group earlier this month also called for federal grants for local businesses. Mike Durant, New York State director for the National Federation of Independent Businesses, an advocacy group, said its members certainly need financial assistance. "We need to get these businesses up and running," he said.

As part of the $50-billion Sandy aid package signed into law in January by President Barack Obama, $16 billion was allocated for community development block grant disaster recovery funding, Israel said. The funding is being allocated in stages to individual states and localities, which must then submit an action plan to detail how the funds will be used.

New York was allocated about $1.7 billion in its first stage on Feb. 6, Israel said, and must submit an action plan within about 90 days.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's press office didn't immediately return a call Thursday afternoon for comment, but Israel said he has been in touch with the administration and Cuomo is considering the idea.

A bipartisan State Senate report earlier this month cited estimates that 265,300 New York businesses suffered a total of $6 billion in damages from the Oct. 29 superstorm, including lost revenue.

As of Tuesday, Long Island homeowners and businesses have received $566 million in disaster loans from the Small Business Administration following Sandy, the SBA said. Most went to 7,269 homeowners, while 287 local businesses received $23.4 million in loans, according to SBA.

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