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Disaster Relief Available to Business Owners through FEMA

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, many have suffered property damage and millions of individuals and businesses on the East Coast have lost power, with New York and New Jersey among the states hardest hit by the storm.

With winds registering in the 80-mile-per-hour range, "Sandy" made landfall Oct. 29 in New Jersey, wreaking havoc from the Jersey shore to Atlantic City to Hoboken. Along the entire Eastern Seaboard, heavy flooding and other damage caused a number of small businesses, including restaurants, to shutter at least temporarily.

President Obama has declared states of disaster in New York, New Jersey, Virginia and West Virginia, and has allocated federal emergency aid to assist individuals in those areas. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, funding is available to state and eligible local governments on a cost-sharing basis for debris removal and emergency protective measures. Other assistance could include low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses.

Restaurant operators in need of information on how to apply for disaster relief can register online at, or call 1-800-FEMA (3362). Speech or hearing-impared individuals can call 1-800-462-7585. The toll-free telephone numbers are operating daily from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. EDT. You can also follow FEMA online at,,, and In addition, the Small Business Association is offering loan assistance at

Dale Venturini, president and CEO of the Rhode Island Hospitality Association, said many of her members have suffered property damage in the wake of the storm. She said it is still unclear as to how much damage has been incurred and how much it will cost to repair.

"We're still assessing here," she said. "The coastal areas were hardest hit. There is extreme water damage at some restaurants close to the water and there is still a considerable amount of power outages."

Venturini said it would take time to assess all of the damage and determine next steps. She noted that her association has arranged for a network of member businesses to help with advice and repairs.

"We don't yet know what the physical plant damage will be or how much food will be lost," she said. "We have put people in place to help our members, people who do flood control and contractors who can help. Their phones have been ringing nonstop. We wanted to make sure that when our members called, we could match them up on a priority basis."

She further stated that members must now determine how much it will cost to reopen their businesses.

"Rhode Island is under a state of emergency," she said. "We have to find out what can be reimbursed and what can't. It's going to take a few months."
She also said she wanted "to tell everyone, here and on the East Coast, to hang in there. We'll bounce back with some help."

According to Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, his group is advising members to maintain safety and follow official instructions as they clean up and prepare to reopen their establishments.

"Generally, we are encouraging operators to stay safe and take their cues from officials," he said. "If they are able to open, they may want to coordinate operations, such as staffing, with their executive management teams and staff members.

"Right now," he continued, "most restaurateurs are evaluating the damage and, if possible, are trying to get open to serve their neighborhoods."

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