Velazquez, Meng want bigger share of Sandy cleanup for small biz

Photo by Christina Santucci
By Steve Mosco

New York lawmakers want more hurricane relief funds to go to small businesses.

Members of the U.S. House Committee on Small Business wrote to the U.S. Small Business Administration this week, calling for a greater share of Hurricane Sandy-related federal contracts.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Ridgewood), the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the federal government is not doing enough to help smaller firms recover from the October storm.

“Employing locally owned, small businesses for Sandy recovery projects creates a win-win situation,” she said. “Not only will these firms perform quality work, but when they receive federal contracts, they hire from within the community, helping reinvigorate our local economies.”

In a letter to the SBA, Velazquez, along with Rep. Grace Meng (D-Bayside) said federal law calls for agencies to channel 23 percent of rebuilding contracts to small firms, but currently only 15 percent of Sandy-related contracts have gone to these badly in-need businesses.

In addition to goals for small firms, federal law includes a number of targets for other disadvantaged businesses, such as those owned by women, veterans and minorities. But Velazquez and Meng said that to date, those businesses are also not receiving their share of Sandy-related recovery projects.

Last month, the SBA pledged greater access to federal contracting opportunities for women-owned small businesses as a result of an SBA federal contract program.

“Small businesses from across New York were devastated by the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, and ensuring that they fully recover remains a top priority of mine in Congress,” Meng said. “Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and our region’s prosperity is dependent on their success. I urge the SBA to do everything in its power to get small businesses back up to speed, and making certain that they receive a greater share of Sandy-related contracts would be a major shot in the arm towards accomplishing that critical goal.”

Last week Congress approved and President Barack Obama signed into law a $50.5 billion aid package for states affected by Hurricane Sandy. This legislation includes funding for construction and infrastructure projects, many of which Velazquez said are well-suited for small business participation.

“With President Obama’s enactment of the $50.5 billion Sandy assistance package last week, we have to redouble our efforts to make sure that small firms are at the center of these efforts and not an afterthought,” she said. “This means increasing outreach to local small businesses, enforcing subcontracting requirements and using all of the tools available to channel more contracts to New York City’s small firms.”

In the three months since Sandy hit the Northeast last October, the SBA has approved more than $1.1 billion in disaster loans to 16,800 residents and businesses in the federally declared states affected by the storm.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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