After Hurricane Irene swept through the East Coast and its small businesses were left flooded, Tropical Storm Lee hit just as recovery began, giving a second blow to many of the same areas. There is not yet an estimate as to how many vehicles were flooded in either natural disaster.
Small businesses have several aspects to flood-damaged vehicles they must worry about: repairing, replacing and watching out for flood-damaged vehicles in the marketplace.
The United States Small Business Association (SBA) has opened venues and loan programs along the East Coast to help small businesses and certain private nonprofit organizations affected by the hurricane and tropical storm that occurred early September. The physical property damage aid includes vehicles, among other physical properties.
Before applying for a loan, though, businesses should first register through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to see if they’re eligible for grants, says Carol Chastang, spokesperson for U.S. SBA. As well, even if the business has yet to hear on its insurance claim settlement, they should still apply, she says. The loans can help cover vehicles that end up being under-insured or uninsured.
The SBA currently has low-cost loan programs available in counties of North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Pennsylvania. Virginia has also been added, as of Sept. 21. Applications can be done online or at the nearest Disaster Recovery Center (DRC).
The SBA makes physical disaster loans of up to $2 million to businesses or private nonprofits located in the qualifying disaster areas. The interest rate on loans for businesses that don’t have access to credit anywhere else is no more than 4 percent with a repayment of up to 30 years.
Applications for physical property damage must be turned in by Oct. 31. Once the application is turned in, the SBA will send an inspector and the loan will be evaluated within 10 days, Chastang says.
Other financial assistance for small businesses comes in tax relief, which can be in the form of postponing filing and payment deadlines. Go here for more tax relief, disaster assistance information from the IRS.
Identifying Flood-Damaged Vehicles
Driving a flood-damaged vehicle can be dangerous. If you’re unsure if you have a fleet vehicle that was submerged, check the following:
1. Check all fluids. If anything looks discolored or milky, put the vehicle through proper maintenance.
2. Check the exterior, such as headlights, for any trapped moisture.
3. Look for unusually high water stains or debris on the interior.
Again, if you think there might be water damage to the engine, do not drive it. Progressive has some good tips on identifying flood-damaged vehicles.
Damaged Vehicles in the Aftermarket
We’ve all heard the warnings about watching out for flood-damaged vehicles in the marketplace, such as in this article from Edmunds.com.
Going through a dealer/fleet service can help to ensure that you know what you’re buying. GE Fleet Services, for example, announced that it has expanded its vehicle data on Carfax.
To obtain additional assistance call the SBA Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Those affected by this disaster may fill out a loan application online by visiting SBA's website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/.