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Federal, State Small Business Officials Meet With Small Business Owners Recovering From Sandy

State Small Business Official: 'We Undaunt The Process'
Yonkers Small Business. Robert Altman of Altman Lighting, SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano (L-R), Nov. 14, 2012. (credit: Paul Murnane/WCBS 880)

Yonkers Small Business. Robert Altman of Altman Lighting, SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns, Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano (L-R), Nov. 14, 2012. (credit: Paul Murnane/WCBS 880)

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YONKERS, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Waterfront businesses in Yonkers slowly pick up the pieces following flooding from superstorm Sandy.

Many business owners have begun the process of assessing the damage and looking to their insurance companies for help.

WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane reports

At Altman Lighting, the Hudson River storm surge came within a few inches of the factory floor. It blew through a garage door and flooded stock and materials in a storage building in Robert Altman’s company.

“We have flood insurance here, but they say it’s only for insuring the building, not contents,” Altman told WCBS 880’s Paul Murnane.

Small business officials toured damaged businesses and met with entrepreneurs in Yonkers on Wednesday, offering advice and assistance.

U.S. Small Business Administration Deputy Administrator Marie Johns said low-interest loans and other SBA aid can step in here.

“We have spent a lot of time working on streamlining our processes. From the time of application to getting the money in hand, it’s less 20 days,” she told Murnane.

Other small businesses that were inundated in the storm surge said the path the recovery will take some time.

“The saltwater destroyed all of the motors. We’re rebuilding them piece by piece because machinery takes a year and a half to two years to manufacture,” said Ron Shemesh of Excelsior Packaging Group.

For businesses looking for assistance in cleaning up and reopening after Sandy, the SBA website is one starting point and Johns said the agency is out at the FEMA centers that have popped up across the region.

There is also assistance available for small businesses on the state level.

“We have specialists who know what’s out there and what makes sense for a particular business, for a particular client,” said New York State Small Business Development Center regional director Tom Morley. “We undaunt the process.”

Morley said filling out and filing all the paperwork is often the most frustrating part of the process, but said that is what small business experts can help with.

Soul Flavors soul food restaurant in Jersey City suffered at least $10,000 in products lost and nearly $5,000 worth of equipment damaged in the storm.

Restaurant owner Wayne Lyons said his goal is to secure a government grant, not a federal loan, to help rebuild his business.

WCBS 880’s Levon Putney reports

“All of our personal finances have been exhausted,” Lyons told WCBS 880’s Levon Putney. “As it is, I didn’t even make my rent. So what good is a loan going to do me? It’s going to put me further behind the eight ball.”

Other small business owners said they are concerned they will not be able to stay afloat after the cost of getting the business back running.

“No income is coming,” said Greg Racalis of Racalis Realty.

His business has been closed for more than a week with no power.

“Any business that goes under is going to be hurtful to Jersey City,” Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy said. “It’s hurting me personally because I know so many of these people.”

Healy said the city will lose out on tax revenue from the business and employees, plus the services they offer. Any businesses that close will also potentially be putting workers on the unemployment line, he said.

“A lot of these small businesses employ four or five or 12 or 20 people,” Healy said.

The mayor worked to bring in FEMA, U.S. Small Business Administration officials and utility reps but said he understands many businesses will not survive the impact of Sandy.

SBA officials in conjunction with the New Jersey Small Business Development Center of Northwest New Jersey will host free business disaster seminars later this week. Click here for more information.