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SBA official: Apply for disaster loan now, even if you think you don't need it

Robert Piechota, Long Island branch manager for the

Robert Piechota, Long Island branch manager for the U.S. Small Business Administration, urged businesses to apply for aid. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Small business owners should apply now for federal disaster loans, even if they think they don’t want or need them, since it's likely to take more than a month for businesses to receive the funds, a federal official said Thursday in an online and telephone town hall hosted by Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley).

The federal Small Business Administration is offering Economic Injury Disaster Loans – or EIDL, pronounced “idle” – of up to $2 million each, at interest rates of 3.75% for small businesses or 2.75% for private nonprofits, said Robert Piechota, branch manager of the SBA's Hauppauge office, which serves Nassau and Suffolk counties. The loans were included in last week’s federal emergency declaration in response to the coronavirus pandemic, he said.

“If you need help, there’s help to be had,” Piechota said.

However, he said, even in good times, it can take a month to get such loans. It’s likely to take longer now due to the high volume of applications and glitches that have disabled the online application process. 

There is no fee to apply, and if a business is approved for a loan and declines it, there is no penalty, Piechota said.

The loans, which can be used to pay debts, payroll and other bills that can’t be paid due to the pandemic’s impact, can be repaid over a maximum of 30 years.

The loans included in last week’s emergency declaration are separate from the $2 trillion economic stimulus bill approved by the Senate on Wednesday and scheduled for a House vote on Friday. That package includes $377 billion to support small businesses, including loans of up to $10 million each. For those loans, up to eight weeks of payroll costs and certain other costs would be forgiven if businesses retain their head counts and salary levels until at least June, Zeldin said during the town hall.

In response to a question from a caller, Piechota said applying for – and not receiving funds from – an EIDL loan would not prevent an applicant from receiving other forms of assistance, such as the partially forgivable loans in the stimulus package.

“It’s like a line of credit,” Piechota said. “If you don’t take it, you’re not going to be charged for it.”

After superstorm Sandy devastated Long Island in 2012, many homeowners received SBA loans and were later dismayed to learn that they could not receive grants, since that would be considered a duplication of benefits.

Applications and information about EIDL loans are available at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.

Piechota and Zeldin urged those participating in the call to contact the SBA or Zeldin’s office with any further questions. The SBA can be reached at 800-659-2955;  Zeldin is at 631-289-1097 or Congressmanzeldin1@mail.house.gov.

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