As the cleanup after super-storm Hurricane Sandy begins throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions, the federal governmentâ€™s national disaster assistance program is ready to deal with the flood of aid requests expected to pour into their offices.
Managers at one Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center, which is run by the U.S. Small Business Administration, have brought in reserve staff and extended hours to handle the expected onslaught of calls.
The facility has up to 125 reserve staff members who can be called upon to handle calls, and can stay open up to seven days a week if necessary, according to Collen M. Hiam, deputy director of the center.
As of Monday afternoon, the center had 80 employees working.
â€śAt this point, weâ€™re making sure weâ€™re ready for any surge in calls or emails,â€ť Hiam said. â€śMore than likely, we will end up activating more of our reserve staff and will have to provide some training before they hit the floor.â€ť
This setup is typical of other Disaster Assistance Centers around the country.
The disaster assistance program provides low-interest emergency loans to homeowners, renters and non-farm small businesses, once a disaster declaration has been approved for their area, and the applicant has registered with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The program offers loans of up to $2 million to businesses or non profit organizations to rebuild, replace property or for working capital. The interest rate is usually 4 percent or less, for up to 30 years.
Applicants can apply via the Electronic Loan Application via the Small Business Administration website (Sba.gov) or in person at any Disaster Recovery Center. For information or to find the nearest location, applicants are encouraged to call 1-800-659-2955 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.