WASHINGTON (9/15/08)--The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) says that reforms in its disaster assistance programs should avoid a repeat of the challenges it faced in 2005 meeting the demand for its disaster home and business loans after the Gulf Coast Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Since 2005, SBA has it has rebuilt its disaster operation, upgraded technology, reformed processes and leveraged personnel to create a better system. Specifically, it:
* Improved and streamlined its disaster application review process and approval process; * Increased its business disaster loan limits from $1.5 million to $2 million for physical damage loans and economic injury disaster loans combined. Small businesses and non-profits of all sizes can apply for working capital loans to alleviate disaster-relates economic injury. * Enhanced its internal coordination and strengthened collaboration among federal and state partners. * Completed a comprehensive Disaster Recovery Plan that explains how it would handle a major national disaster. * Added a disaster reserve corps of more than 2,000 individuals to quickly staff disaster field offices. * Trained nondisaster staff to process disaster loan applications and assist6 in other disaster functions. * Secured space in multiple locations across the country. * Implemented an online application for disaster loans to speed up the process and make it easier. * Expanded technology to handle 12,000 concurrent users, from 2,000 simultaneous users in Katrina. * Implemented a telecommunications system to handle 20,000 calls per day, up from 10,000.
Since the 2005 hurricanes, SBA has disbursed more than $4.9 billion in disaster loans to 102,903 homeowners and renters in the Gulf region. Businesses there received 16,828 business disaster loans with $1.5 billion in disbursements.