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Businesses Hurt by Hurricane Sandy Are Forced to Rebuild on Their Own

The same is true for small-business owners struggling to get back on track.

Deborah Turhan, whose family owns Michael's Tailoring and Dry Cleaning in Long Beach, N.Y., has created a survey for local business owners to address exact needs in their rebuilding processes. She's trying to gather enough information to present to officials for more tailored resources.

So far, two dozen businesses (and a few residents) have filled out the survey. "Businesses are saying their insurances companies aren't paying; that FEMA is not helping them in any way, they're not in a position financially to be taking out a loan because of the recession and that they need grant money," Turhan says.

Turhan notes it's not just government money that's needed -- it's business.

"Our rebuilding of our business -- none of it came from government sources. It was friends and we have another friend that is coming down to rebuild our countertop and put down the floor," Turhan says. "We couldn't wait for the money."

"My husband's business usually brought in anywhere from $9,000 to $10,000 a month" in the winter. He's at 50% of what he is doing. He just opened last week," she says. "Who wants to take out a loan for $160,000 and in an area where the business isn't coming back because the residents aren't back?"

The stories of struggling business owners have encouraged coalitions like StartUp New York to create ways to help small businesses deal with the rebuilding process.

StartUp New York's main initiatives include marketing programs to attract tourism to affected businesses and encourage investments and economic growth through events, partnerships and crowdsourcing. It also provides struggling businesses with information about available local, state and federal resources.

(StartUp New York is not part of the nationwide Startup America Partnership, a nationwide network of startup communities endorsed by President Barack Obama.)

"Months after Sandy, many small businesses, which are vital to our city, are struggling to get back on their feet. In hard hit areas, shops and restaurants are facing massive flood damage, and many lack flood insurance to underwrite critical repairs. For many small businesses we're working with, the loss of a pizza oven or a refrigerator is enough to put them out of business," says coalition founder Reshma Saujani.

"On top of the physical damage, decreased foot traffic has stretched some small-business owners so thin that even if they qualify for low-interest loans, the uncertainty ahead is so daunting that they are afraid to extend themselves further. StartUp New York is a platform to educate small-business owners about available relief resources and engage communities in rebuilding efforts," says Saujani, the former deputy public advocate of New York City and the founder of Girls Who Code.
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