Small biz seek info on disaster relief

Small biz seek info on disaster relief
Photo by RIch Bockmann
By Rich Bockmann

Josie Scarpa spent the last two years investing in and building her Howard Beach salon, but when the waters from the canal took over Cross Bay Boulevard during Superstorm Sandy, she was left with thousands of dollars in damaged equipment and a lot of questions.

“We got into the business three days later and tried to salvage what we could,” said Scarpa, who estimated she lost about $250,000 in damaged tanning equipment at the VIP Salon & Spa. “Only the things that were up very high made it. All the tanning equipment was damaged from the saltwater.”

Scarpa, who lives in Howard Beach, had significant damage to her home and her car. She also saw how the lives of her eight employees had been turned upside down.

“I was hit in all aspects,” she said. “I have one girl, she just got married. She’s got two pairs of underwear, the clothes on her back and the wedding dress she was able to salvage.”

In the days following the storm, Scarpa rented a chair at another salon so she could get by as she searched for answers as to how to get her own business back on its feet.

“At this point we have to rebuild,” she said. “We’re not quitters.”

Scarpa joined a few dozen other resilient business owners Friday at Resorts World Casino in Ozone Park, where several elected officials had convened a meeting of city, state and federal agencies providing disaster relief to small businesses.

“It’s a lot and we understand that, so our role is to coordinate and peel it back and make it accessible,” said Kevin Alexander, of the Far Rockaway Development & Revitalization Corp.

As a first step, the panelists suggested business owners should register with the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a federal disaster assistance ID, as some city and state programs will require one.

Some of the assistance being offered includes loans from the city Small Business Services up to $25,000 to help cover physical damages or even make up for lost business.

The state Department of Labor has a program that pays partial unemployment so employers can save money by cutting back on their staff’s hours without having to lay off employees, and another program that expedites unemployment payments to those who lost their jobs because of the storm.

The U.S. Small Business Administration also has several different loan programs available.

Acting District Director Walter Oden said the most important message for business owners was to fill out an application even if they did not think they needed a loan.

“They may be fine now, but you never know what may happen down the road,” he said.

Nicola Campbell said she lost about $40,000 worth of spoiled food and damaged equipment at her restaurant, the Chef Mom Grill and Bakery, in Cedarhurst, L.I.

As she prepared to fill out an application for an SBA loan, Campbell said one of the things she was proud of was that she was able to open her restaurant eight months ago with her personal savings and no debt.

“It’s so hard,” she said. “But where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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