PHOTO: The terrorist attack emptied the streets of lower Manhattan for weeks, decimating the foot traffic many small retailers depend on.
Before September 11, many business owners in New York City knew very little about how the federal government handled emergencies. After all, few had ever experienced a natural disaster – floods, hurricanes, or earthquakes. They were confident they never would.
Yet within hours – after the worst terrorist attack in the nation’s history – many business owners were turning to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the state and local government for help, both physically and economically.
|A directory of federal offices that provide public information on disaster recovery.|
FEMA sent more than 3,000 federal employees to the disaster sites in New York and Washington, D.C., and provided assistance in emergency transportation, communications, power, medical services, debris removal, mass care, and logistic support. Some of the search-and-rescue teams that FEMA used in Oklahoma City were also deployed at the terrorist sites.
As with all federal disasters, workers set up field offices to coordinate the recovery effort. In New York, 27 agencies – ranging from the Environmental Protection Agency to the Small Business Administration (SBA) – were located at field offices to provide onsite support to victims.
“It was all done very quickly,” says Mike Byrne, FEMA Deputy Federal Coordinating Officer for Operations. “In the case of New York and the Pentagon, the process took about 30 seconds. In other disasters, it may take a few hours.”
Through the media, fliers, and volunteers, New York business owners were urged to register with FEMA to obtain SBA low-interest disaster loans. SBA Administrator Hector Barreto also toured the city and talked to business owners, telling them of the loans available from his agency. “The people who live in these communities and the businesses … will rebound and come back together,” Mr. Barreto said in a September 25 press release announcing the loans. Two SBA disaster loan programs are available for businesses: Business Physical Disaster Loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) for small businesses. The SBA can make loans up to $1.5 million, at 4 percent interest for up to 30 years. Typically, once the application is submitted, the borrower can receive the money in seven to 21 days.