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A push to help Santa Barbara small businesses after fire and floods

Greta Mart
Montecito's Coast Village Road on Jan. 18, 2018, when it was still off-limits to residents and visitors.

It’s been one month since intense rain squalls fell on the hills above Montecito, triggering an avalanche of mud, water and boulders that killed nearly two dozen people and destroyed hundreds of homes. 

One of the hardest hit areas - the neighborhood where Olive Mill and Hot Springs Roads meet - remains partially blocked to traffic, scores of workers still cleaning up and mounds of dirt and boulders pushed up into piles.

Santa Barbara-area politicians Salud Carbajal and Monica Limon gathered officials from the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and local non-profits Friday to get the word out on available resources.

The Small Business Administration is offering low-interest loans up to $2 million dollars to Santa Barbara business owners. SBA's Office of Disaster Assistance spokesperson Corey Williams said the first deadline to apply for available loans is mid-March.

“The one thing I want to emphasize for Santa Barbara business owners is if they had any bit of physical damage at all, then they need to apply by March 16, 2018,” Williams said. “However, if it's economic injury only, then they have until October to apply.”

Williams said it’s easy to see physical damage from the January 9 debris flows and December’s Thomas Fire. But unseen economic injury is the biggest focus of the Small Business Administration loan program.

“Things that a business owner in Santa Barbara can't they're going to pay their employees, how are they going to meet that monthly lease obligation, what if they have to attract new business, because think about what the Highway 101 closures mean?” Williams said. “There were a number of businesses affected adversely, just because there wasn't enough foot traffic coming in. They need to make sure they have that working capital to sustain themselves, not only in Month 1 and 2, but we’re thinking about Month 6, 7, 8, 9...down the line.”

There are no fees or closing costs associated with the federal loans, Williams said.

Another Santa Barbara non-profit, Women’s Economic Ventures (WEV), is offering micro-loans to area business owners, and the Santa Barbara County Small Business Development Center (SBDC) also offers disaster relief assistance.

“Specific to the fire and mudslide devastation, we offer low interest to quick response loans up to $10,000 with an 18- month term,” Jamie Marks of WEV said. “Depending on a complete package we can typically turn those around within two to three business days.”

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