Menendez Bill to Help Struggling Sandy Homeowners, Businesses Recover Would increase access to low-interest federal disaster loans

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today introduced legislation that would help speed up the recovery for homeowners and local businesses impacted by Superstorm Sandy. The Superstorm Sandy Relief and Disaster Loan Program Improvement Act of 2015 would reopen the application process for federal disaster loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). The bill is cosponsored by Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (both D-NY).

“We need to do everything we can to help those who are still struggling to recover nearly three years after Superstorm Sandy,” said Sen. Menendez. “Providing access to much needed capital through low-interest loans will allow homeowners to rebuild, and businesses to stay open and keep their workers on the job, while repairs and resiliency upgrades are completed.”

“So many homeowners and entrepreneurs in our state are still recovering from the devastating losses they suffered because of Superstorm Sandy,” said Sen. Booker. “Reopening the application process for small business disaster loans and improving this program will provide New Jerseyans the support they need to rebuild. This bill is needed to ensure our communities and small businesses are not only restored, but made more resilient than ever before. Providing New Jersey small business owners access to SBA disaster loans will unlock their ability to continue driving economic growth and support them as they create jobs.”

Specifically, the legislation would:

• Extend disaster assistance loan program for 1 year after program origination

• Expand permissible use of SBA loan funds to include retaining walls and sea walls, grading and contouring land, and relocating utilities and modifying structures, including construction of a safe room ort similar storm structure

• No longer require small business owner to use their primary residence for business disaster loan if other collateral is available

• Create better disclosure of documentation requirements

• Require SBA to establish clear, written policies and procedures for analyzing the ability of a loan applicant to repay

• Improve oversight of Economic Injury Disaster Loan approval process

• Enhance information reporting requirements on approval rate and average processing time for applications

• Require the revision of SBA’s disaster response plan to address the challenge of handling a high volume of applications-

• Require SBA report to Congress on its progress on implementing: 1) the private disaster loan program; 2) the Immediate Disaster Assistance Program; and 3) the expedited disaster assistance business loan program.

A similar measure was passed this week in the House of Representatives.

Sen. Menendez has led on policies to help Sandy victims and the Sandy-affected region recover, including in the fight for $60 billion in Sandy federal disaster aid. The Senator currently chairs the Sandy Task Force, working with Sens. Booker, Schumer and Gillibrand and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to investigate problems with the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that arose in the wake of Sandy, to develop a process to make lowballed Sandy victims whole, and to make recommendations for long-term reforms. He also authored the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act, signed into law in April 2014, to protect those living in flood zones from skyrocketing insurance premiums.