In the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, many small businesses will be powerfully impacted by damaged storefronts, lost inventory and equipment, downtime and the costs to recover. Rebuilding and mitigating losses is a tough, emotionally draining and worrisome season.
The first steps are to call your insurance companies as soon as possible to determine your coverage, assess damages and estimated losses, and create a budget for rebuilding and replacement costs. Get the full picture of the impact on your company, so that you know what is needed to recover and can anticipate near-term and long-term financial needs and constraints.
Fortunately, there are resources and support programs to help get you through the recovery stage. Here are some of the U.S.-based resources and steps to take to help keep you operational, get you up and running as quickly as possible or to sustain you through lean times:
There are several U.S. and state-based programs that can help your business survive a disaster. First, fill out the questionnaire at DisasterAssistance.gov to determine which assistance programs may be available to you personally and professionally. Next, consider tapping into these federal agencies:
- FEMA: FEMA does not offer direct grant support for businesses (though they should for your residential home). However, they can help direct you to other resources and programs that support disaster-affected businesses. The FEMA Helpline number is 1–800–621–3362.
- Small Business Administration: The SBA offers low-interest disaster loans to small businesses and nonprofits in a declared disaster area, which can be used to repair or replace the following items: real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, inventory and business assets. The loans can go up to $2 million. In some cases, the SBA may also be able to refinance all or part of a prior mortgage. Shavonnah Roberts Scheriber, founder of SNR Creative, wrote more info on SBA loans here. Apply for the SBA loan online here. If you want to talk to a SBA rep, you can reach out via 1–800–659–2955.
- Call your credit card companies, mortgage lenders and/or vendors, as soon as possible, to request a payment suspension, if needed.
- Get the new agreement in writing and track correspondence with each creditor.
- Make sure that you understand the terms of the suspension. It is possible that the creditor will expect a balloon payment for all deferred installments at the end of the deferral period.
- Many banks are also waiving late fees and overdraft fees for a couple of weeks. Be sure you check with your bank though.
- If you extended your 2016 business or personal tax return, the new due date is January 31, 2018.
- You can defer personal and business estimated tax payments for September 15, December 15 and January 15 until January 31, 2018.
- Business payroll tax deposits that were due between August 23 and September 6 can be postponed until September 7, 2017.
- There’s also a chance that the IRS will waive the 10% Adjusted Gross Income reduction for theft and casualty deductions related to Hurricane Harvey. Be sure to save your receipts for the insurance deductible and non-reimbursable out-of-pocket expenses related to theft and casualty.
- Communicate frequently and transparently with your team.
- If possible, allow them to work from home and encourage flexibility, while they also deal with the disaster’s fallout.
- The Fair Standards Labor Act requires that you, as the business owner, continue to pay full-time exempt employees during the business’ closure. If you also employ hourly non-exempt employees, you are not required to pay them for hours not work, but you may consider offering as much of the lost wages as you can afford.
- Workers who have become unemployed may be eligible for the federal or state assistance programs. Information on the Texas Disaster Unemployment Assistance program is available here.
- I haven’t been able to find a computer lending or free replacement service yet, so you’re best bet may be to crowdsource a loaner laptop from friends and community members.
- Backup any cloud-based files and print out critical documents.
- Check with your local co-working spaces to see if they are offering free desks, wifi, etc. For example, Station Houston has an open house policy through at least the end of this week. Capital Factory and dozens of other spaces in Austin have opened their doors to affected entrepreneurs. DEC in Dallas and Propeller in New Orleans are also offering workspace to those displaced.
- Many coffee shops will welcome you with open arms for wifi and outlets.
- Station Houston has aggregated a comprehensive list of emergency resources for rescue, relief and recovery.
- Shelter locations, as well as volunteer and supply needs, are being crowdsourced and updated via Sketch City here.
- Preparing for Action is also publishing ways to volunteer and donate.
- Consider a donation to Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s recovery fund at ghcf.org.