disaster relief

By Jacob Maslow

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma impacted thousands of small businesses. Relief efforts are in full swing, but for a small business, there are a lot of lingering questions left. The U.S. Small Business Administration is providing loan deferment in affected areas for 12 months on principal and interest payments.

And if your business was in an affected area, it’s time to take advantage of the deferment as you deal with insurance companies and a business in disarray.

Small business owners in unaffected areas of the country should use these hurricanes as a wake-up call: It’s time to protect your business.

1. Call Your Insurance Agent or Company

You have insurance — I hope. If not, it’s time to call and obtain insurance so that your business is protected from future natural disasters. Your insurance agent will be your first point of contact, and after a hurricane, you can expect a lot of busy signals and time spent on the phone.

Backup contact information is a must.

A claim will need to be filed, so it’s up to you to:

  1. Contact your insurer and make a claim.
  2. Secure your property and make temporary repairs if possible.

An adjuster will come out to your property, so it’s important to make the location safe for his or her visit.

2. Gather Your Records – If Possible

Your records may have been destroyed in the hurricane, or they may be available still. It’s up to you to gather your business records and organize them. These records include:

  • Invoices for the last year
  • Bank statements
  • Federal and state tax returns
  • Business contracts
  • Purchase agreements (where applicable)

Keeping all of your records on the cloud helps make this organization of records much easier and safer. You should only gather these documents from your business if it’s safe to do so. Don’t risk your life trying to gather your records.

Records will be used by your insurance agent. You can also use these records when applying for disaster relief funding.

3. Research and Apply for Disaster Relief Funding

Your business’s future relies on you taking immediate action after a hurricane. The longer you wait, the less opportunity there is to secure disaster relief funding. There are a few options that are available, including:

  • Disaster Loans. The SBA is offering disaster relief loans to businesses. Loans are available to businesses in and around Houston and Florida. You can secure loans with interest rates of 3.3% for your business, or 2.5% for a nonprofit. Your financial condition will dictate your loan amount, but up to $2 million can be borrowed.
  • Relief Funds. In Texas, Rushion McDonald has teamed up with Texas Black Expo to offer a one-time grant of $1,000 to eligible applicants. This grant is dispatched promptly and is to be used for cleanup, remodeling, supplies and replacement. Similar grants may be available in Florida. Contact your local chamber of commerce to find out.

There is funding and help available for small businesses that are impacted by natural disasters, but it’s up to you to apply for public or private funding. Conduct research to find out which avenues are available for you.

4. Help Victims When Possible

If your business can, help victims of Harvey, Irma or any hurricane. The devastation following a natural disaster will impact the local economy for years to come. Insurance companies are often slow to provide payouts, so you can help by:

  • Providing cash to impacted businesses
  • Donating to charities that you see on the ground and helping with relief efforts
  • Continuing to pay your employees if possible
  • Donating goods
  • Offering employees time off if they can help with relief efforts
  • Providing any free service you can to locals

Something as simple as a place for rescuers to rest, drink a cup of coffee or connect to Wi-Fi will be greatly appreciated. If your company provides disaster relief and helps the community, the community will remember.

Jacob Maslow is a financial, business and legal writer as well as the owner of Legal Scoops. A marketing specialist, Jacob helps businesses expand their online and offline reach, increase revenue and boost conversions. Jacob is an author at some of the world’s top publications, including: Huffington Post, GuruFocus, Talk Markets, Business.com, Business2community and dozens of others.