YONKERS, N.Y. – More than 150 Yonkers jobs have been briefly swept away with Hurricane Sandy’s flood waters.
Excelsior Packaging Group was forced to temporarily lay off most of its 176 employees three weeks ago after Sandy’s flood caused millions of dollars in equipment damages and lost inventory, owner Ron Shemesh said Wednesday.
To make matters worse, the Alexander Street packaging company lost several customers who couldn’t afford to wait for their orders while the plant recovered.
“We are scrambling to get the equipment back in operation,” Shemesh said, adding it may be two weeks before all Excelsior employees are back to work.
On Wednesday, Marie Johns, deputy administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, toured some of Yonkers’ waterfront businesses to see first-hand the damage left behind by Sandy. Johns pledged help for owners like Shemesh in the form of low-interest Disaster Loans.
“We want everyone to know SBA is here to help and we are here to stay,” Johns said. “We’re going to be here as long as it takes.”
For some, that is sure to be welcome news. Excelsior was one of several downtown plants to be flooded in the storm, including Greystone Bakery and Altman Lighting.
Robert Altman, president of the 79 Alexander St. theatrical and architectural lighting company, said his business sustained millions of dollars’ worth of damage when two to three feet of water from the nearby Hudson River surged into his shop.
“The water was too much too fast,” he said. “It came so quick, so quick you couldn’t think.”
But with flood insurance only covering $500,000 of the damages, some small business owners say they are looking to fill the gap between insurance monies and actual losses.
That is where the federal government says it can help.
Because Westchester County was declared a Federal Disaster area, Altman Lighting, Excelsior and other small business are eligible for low-interest loans, or Disaster Loans, from the SBA.
For Shemesh and Altman, the Disaster Loans could be used to help cover the cost of damage or help fund payrolls and operating costs. The loans, which borrowers may have up to 30 years to pay off, are the same type offered to victims of hurricanes Irene and Katrina.
Mayor Mike Spano, who joined Johns on the tour, said that is exactly what the city's business owners may need.
“We want to obviously get these businesses up and running again but they are going to need a helping hand,” he said.
Disaster Loans are also open to homeowners or renters to repair or replace things like personal property and equipment that has been damaged.
Johns encouraged interested applicants to visit the SBA website for information.