The head of the U.S. Small Business Administration urged South Carolina business and property owners not to be too proud to seek government-sponsored loans and other assistance in the aftermath of record flooding in the Midlands, Pee Dee, and Lowcountry.
SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet made the comments shortly after meeting with Gov. Nikki Haley and touring some of the worst-damaged businesses in southeast Columbia with city mayor Steve Benjamin.
“I know what it’s like to be desperate to try to preserve your business,” she said. “And this is not the time to have too much pride. This is the time to pick up the phone and call those who are ready and want to help you.”
The agency said it has 23 disaster recovery centers set up in the affected areas. As of Wednesday, the agency said it had received 1,600 loan applications in South Carolina. Of those, 110 were approved for a total of $2.5 million in assistance statewide. That number is expected to go up as more businesses and homeowners seek help. Flood victims have until December 4 to apply.
Residents are eligible to apply for emergency loans under the emergency declaration that covers Bamberg, Berkeley, Calhoun, Charleston, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Greenwood, Horry, Kershaw, Lee, Lexington, Orangeburg, Richland, Sumter and Williamsburg counties.
Affected business owners can apply for up to $2 million in low-interest loans, while homeowners can also apply for up to $200,000 in loans to cover the costs of repairs or replacements.
Contreras-Sweet said assistance is also available for businesses that did not sustain actual physical damages, but lost revenue as a consequence of the storm and its aftermath. “If… you have fewer customers coming into your shop, you have little traffic coming into your business, then you qualify for an ‘economic injury,'” she said. Those loans offer up to $40,000 for affected businesses.
Residents in Abbeville, Aiken, Allendale, Barnwell, Beaufort, Chesterfield, Dillon, Edgefield, Fairfield, Hampton, Lancaster, Laurens, Marion, Marlboro, McCormick, Newberry and Saluda counties are only eligible for “economic injury” assistance.
Those interested in an SBA loan, or any service offered by the agency, can call the agency’s customer service center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an email to email@example.com. Applicants may apply online using the electronic loan application via the SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela or in person by visiting a nearby disaster recovery center.