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SBA cites $58M in Sandy LI business loans so far

Jason Kerr, owner and president of Fusion Health

Jason Kerr, owner and president of Fusion Health & Fitness in Long Beach had planned to open his new enterprise on Oct. 29, 2012, the day superstorm Sandy struck. He managed to open in mid-December, but has had to work hard to pull in clients. (March 13, 2013) Credit: Newsday / Alejandra Villa

Six months after Sandy hit Long Island, 656 local companies have been approved for $58.4 million in government loans, officials said Monday.

The U.S. Small Business Administration, which authorized the lending to companies in Nassau and Suffolk counties that were ravaged by the Oct. 29 superstorm, said most of the applicants were in hard-hit Nassau. The funds were earmarked for rebuilding and to keep operating.

The average loan was $89,029.

SBA is still accepting applications from businesses and some not-for-profit groups that sustained financial losses because of Sandy, said agency spokesman Michael B. Peacock. The deadline is July 31.

He also said the agency is no longer taking applications from companies for repairing their physical damage.

The six-month report on SBA loans follows an estimate by Empire State Development Corp., New York's primary business aid agency, that the typical business damaged by Sandy on Long Island has $67,500 in recovery expenses that haven't been covered by insurance payments and government loans.

The development agency also has estimated that 13,888 local companies were in the storm's surge area. Together, they have 68,069 workers.

In Long Beach on Monday, the owner of Fusion Health & Fitness Ltd. credited a $25,000 SBA-approved loan with keeping the gym afloat when Sandy delayed its opening seven weeks.

"The money has sustained me up to this point," said owner Jason Kerr. "It got us through the first six months and made it easier to pay the rent, utilities, equipment financing and other expenses."

Kerr had planned to open the 3,500-square-foot gym, located on the second floor of 16 E. Park Ave., on the day the storm struck. Floodwaters damaged the building's electrical system on the first floor.

The gym finally opened on Dec. 17, and Kerr said he was happy Long Beach residents had become members given that the city is still in recovery mode. He said he has 158 members and hopes to add about 90 this summer.

The federal agency guaranteed both the emergency funds and an earlier $100,000 to start the gym. Both loans are from the New York Business Development Corp., which works with banks, the SBA and the state.

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