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UCEDC gets another $1 million to lend to Sandy-slammed businesses

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Crews work to restore a Sandy-slammed section of the Jersey Shore in this file photo.
Crews work to restore a Sandy-slammed section of the Jersey Shore in this file photo. - ()

The UCEDC said its storm recovery loan program has provided nearly $2 million to 79 small businesses so far, and now has another $1 million to lend to Sandy-affected businesses that need working capital.

Robin Preisler, director of business development for UCEDC, a nonprofit economic development corporation, said grants from Investors Bank and the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund have to far helped UCEDC lend $1.954 million. Now UCEDC has a new $500,000 grant from the HSNJRF, which will support another $1 million in loans.

The maximum loan is $50,000 at 2 percent for five years, with no collateral required. Preisler said the grants enable UCEDC to make Sandy microloans at 2 percent, rather than its standard 10.25 percent rate.

Even as the one-year anniversary of Sandy approaches Oct. 29, there are still many small businesses in need of loans, she said.

“Believe it or not, people are just getting their final settlements with their insurance companies, so a lot of people who were holding off applying for the loans are now in our pipeline,” she said. Also, companies are also finding out whether they will get a grant from the state Economic Development Authority, and now “they can see how much they are still short, in terms of how much money they need.”

UCEDC is trying to reach out to businesses “that are suffering from storm fatigue, who even though they could benefit from this money, they just don’t have the energy to go through another application process,” Preisler said. “We try to keep it as simple as possible.” A UCEDC staff member is going out to spread the word in areas harmed by Sandy, both Shore towns and places like Hoboken and Jersey City.

Preisler said some businesses had set money aside to buy new equipment to move their business ahead, and had to use that money to deal with Sandy. A UCEDC loan “will allow them to get back to their growth pattern. And many were using their personal credit cards, paying 12, 14, 15 percent — and our working capital loan can allow them to pay down that debt.”

Michael Sodano owns Showroom Cinema, in Asbury Park, which was supposed to move into its new three-screen theater around when Sandy hit. Although the new building wasn’t damaged, the storm delayed the opening. Sodano said when he opened around Thanksgiving, many residents still had not returned to Asbury Park.

“Our audience kind of disappeared,” he said. “Through the loan, we were able to stay open, continue to pay our staff, and survive.”

He said Sandy delayed the completion of the new building.

“Our air conditioning units were held up in a warehouse that was on a dead end street that you couldn’t get to, because there was a huge tree and telephone pole blocking access to it. And we couldn’t get cranes to come in and lift them up onto the roof, because all the cranes were being used for rescue operations.”

He said business is good now: Asbury Park and neighboring towns have bounced back. He said the UCEDC loan “was a hand in the dark that we were able to grab onto.”

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