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Banks emphasize loan availability as business rebuild from Sandy

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Banks are calling their customers to tell them loans are available to repair and rebuild from the damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy.

Chase is committing $5 billion in loans to small and midsized businesses in addition to its usual business lending, and said in the past two weeks its business bankers have called nearly 90,000 customers in the storm's path.

"We realize many business owners may still be assessing Sandy's impact on their operations, and our message is that we're here to help," said Scott Geller, CEO of Chase Business Banking.

Businesses, homeowners and renters can also apply for disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration. So far, the SBA has approved $8.8 million in disaster loans for New Jersey, according to a spokesman for the agency.

Valley National Bank launched a new "Valley Family Assistance Loan" program for current loan customers who need immediate cash to cover emergency needs.

"Hurricane Sandy was the most devastating storm we have ever encountered in the tristate area," said Valley CEO Gerald H. Lipkin. "It had a significant impact on many of our customers. We are offering the Valley Family Assistance Loan to provide our customers with the funds they need to repair and rebuild immediately."

Valley spokesman Marc Piro said Valley has also reached out to its commercial bank customers "to see what the extent of the damage is, and how we can help." He said Valley is looking at partnering with low-interest rate loan programs being developed by the states of New Jersey and New York. But at this point, it is too early to determine the extent of the damage and the amount of lending required: "We are still actively reaching out to our customers, and a lot of our customers don't know what the extent of their damages are yet."

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