The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce will be a hub for the U.S. Small Business Administration's disaster recovery center next week, to aid businesses affected by Hurricane Florence, officials said Friday.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) Business Recovery Center will be located on the first floor of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce, at 1 Estelle Lee Place in downtown Wilmington, starting at noon Monday, according to Natalie English, president and CEO of the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce.
“We are really glad to be able to partner with the SBA to ensure that our businesses community can have closer access to the services that they provide,” English said Friday.
On Tuesday, the chamber announced an SBA Business Recovery Center in Greenville, according to a news release.
Officials said in that release that a disaster declaration has been declared, which enables the SBA to assist in several coastal communities, including New Hanover, Pender and Brunswick counties. “Businesses in these counties are eligible for both Physical and Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the SBA," stated the release.
After the initial opening of Wilmington's SBA Business Recovery Center on Monday, the center will have normal operating hours Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and closed on Sundays.
“It’s critical that we have [the SBA] in the community, as we continue to be somewhat cut off from the rest of the world … Having that office here is really important,” English added.
English said that the chamber didn’t have a definitive number on just how many SBA officials would be working the center but said that the federal agency did request one office and a conference room to conduct operations there.
In addition to housing the SBA center starting next week, chamber officials have been working to gather resources for the business community by developing a separate list of chamber members that are involved in restoration services and gathering a list of those outside the community coming into the Port City, she said.
The chamber is also helping other chambers in surrounding counties share and connect with resources.
“I’m just very encouraged with just how quickly many of them [businesses] are getting back up and running,” English said. “I hope that we can continue to rapidly recover.”
Emails are going to chamber members with a list of disaster resources at the state and federal level, she said. The chamber is also working with the Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau to find short-term housing assistance for those who have come from outside the area to help in recovery efforts, including those with the SBA and FEMA, insurance adjusters and other relief workers.
The Wilmington Chamber of Commerce itself sustained minimal damages and opened fully for the first time Friday since Hurricane Florence hit, English said.
More businesses could be impacted by additional flooding on the way.
Wilmington city officials on Friday
issued an alert for potential flooding in downtown Wilmington due to the Cape Fear River cresting. High-tide flooding is expected to occur between Saturday and Tuesday, as the river crests, according to the release.
FEMA is also expected to set up disaster recovery centers in North Carolina’s affected areas.
Officials said FEMA is expected to bring at least one disaster recovery center to the Wilmington area, but the timing and location have not been announced.
In addition to aiding rescues and post-storm recovery, FEMA has been working with individual renters and homeowners with damages services, officials said.
FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance (DSA) teams are working in Hurricane Florence affected-areas of the state to help people register for assistance, identify and address immediate and emerging needs and make referrals to other local, state and voluntary agencies to best meet their needs, according to a news release from the agency.
DSA staff will register people for disaster assistance, update records and make referrals to local, state and voluntary agency partners. In addition to the registration opportunity offered by DSA teams, individuals can register for assistance by visiting disasterassistance.gov
or by calling (800) 621-3362, which is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week.
Officials said in the release that after registering for disaster assistance, individuals may be referred to the SBA. The SBA offers low-interest loans for businesses, homeowners and renters, according to the release.
Information about low-interest SBA disaster loans and application forms can be found at SBA.gov/disaster
or by calling (800) 659-2955 or via email, [email protected]