Help is on the way for flood-damaged businesses

The job of helping businesses in Cheshire and Sullivan counties open their doors following last week’s flooding will be done in phases, but members of the state Department of Resources and Economic Development will be there to make sure individual companies don’t get lost in the process, according to Division of Economic Development Director Stuart Arnett.
Arnett and other officials of the Department of Resources and Economic Development have spent the last week doing outreach to companies they have heard of or that have contacted them, offering what information they know so far.
“The first order of business had to be taking care of life-safety issues, then dissemination and collection of information, and then comes the remedies,” Arnett said during a phone conversation between visiting businesses affected by the recent floods. “We will be here and stay involved until it’s done.”
As of Oct. 19, Arnett had had contact with the owners of about 50 companies. Though early in the process, damage estimates for these companies alone fall between $10 million and $20 million, according to Arnett.
The wide discrepancies in estimates can be attributed to “unknowns.” In many cases, it is too early to know for sure if machinery affected by floodwaters are ruined or just need to dry out, for example.
The good news so far is that all of the 50 or so companies DRED officials have been in contact with intend to do what they can to reopen their businesses, said Arnett.
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised. People are anxious to get back to work. Nobody seems ready to throw in the towel,” Arnett said, adding that there is some frustration among people who are trying to figure out what to do next.
At this point, reviving the businesses hinges on the affected region being formally declared a disaster zone. The letter of request from Governor Lynch’s office went out on Tuesday, and the declaration is expected to be made next week, according to Arnett. If and when this happens, the loan and grant programs offered through the U.S. Small Business Administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency can begin.
According to Witmer Jones, a business development specialist with the New Hampshire District office of the SBA, uninsured individuals can secure loans of up to $200,000 for primary residences and $40,000 to replace or repair private property through the SBA. Loan amounts for small businesses can be as high as $1.5 million.
In both cases, however, loan amounts cannot exceed the verified uninsured disaster loss.
Maximum terms on SBA loans are 30 years. While interest rates will be kept low, about 4 percent, it is too early to know exactly what they will actually be.
In addition to the work being done by DRED, the SBA and FEMA, the New Hampshire Business Resource Center has set up a toll-free hotline for business owners affected by the recent flooding. Business representatives can call 1-800-417-4110 for more information. Center staff will collect pertinent information and forward it the correct state and federal agencies. – TRACIE STONE

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