Mississippi Flooding More Destructive to Small Businesses, U.S. Economy Than Initially Feared

Michael Essany Headshot by Michael Essany on May 19, 2011
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Having weathered an economic storm of a lifetime during the past two years, small businesses owners in the south are now struggling to survive the even more catastrophic nightmare born of flooding along the mighty Mississippi River.

As disaster relief efforts continue in hopes of mitigating the destructive flooding, billions of dollars in damages, lost homes, and demolished businesses have already begun taking their toll on the national economy. Given the scope of employment provided by small businesses across the U.S. — particularly in the rural south — the lingering effects of the ongoing Mississippi deluge may be felt for years.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, one in every four businesses affected by a disaster never reopens. Yet despite the long road to recovery that awaits countless small business owners plagued by flooding, both Federal agencies and NGOs are rightfully turning their attention and available resources to this devastation region in the southern United States.

SBA Helping Southern Small Businesses

“The U.S. Small Business Administration is strongly committed to providing the people of Mississippi with the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist homeowners, renters, and businesses with federal disaster loans,” announced SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills in a statement released shortly after the flooding began on May 3 — the unfortunate consequence of heavy snows in the Midwest and torrential rainfall throughout April. “Getting businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is our highest priority at SBA,” Mills added.

Businesses and private non-profit organizations of any size, the SBA says, may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets. The SBA, however, reserves the right to further increase a loan amount by up to 20 percent of the total amount of disaster damage to real estate and/or leasehold improvements, as verified by SBA, to make improvements that lessen the risk of property damage by future disasters of the same kind.

“For small businesses and most private non-profit organizations of all sizes, the SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster,” Mills stated. “Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any physical property damage.”

Those affected by this disaster are encouraged to complete a loan application online at SBA’s secure website.

National Economic Toll is Incalculable

The full breadth of the economic damage left by the historic flooding will be impossible to measure for the foreseeable future, as it’s only become clear in recent days just how significant an impact the southern flooding will ultimately have across the United States economy.

“Thirteen percent of the nation’s energy sources are coming from this part of Louisiana,” CBS News correspondent Rebecca Jarvis reported Tuesday. “One in nine gallons of gasoline that we use in this country every day comes from this part of the country.”

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