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Sandy’s impact on small businesses

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Sandy’s impact on small businesses
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The U.S. Senate held a hearing to look at the toll Sandy took on small businesses. More than a quarter million small businesses in New York were impacted by the storm and if they don't get help soon, lawmakers worry they may never be able to open back up. Erin Billups has more.

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- More than 265,000 New York businesses were devastated by Hurricane Sandy.

"Those that don't get back into business, fast, may find themselves unable to ever open again," said Kevin Law of the Long Island Association.

Senators on Capitol Hill turned an ear to New York and New Jersey's business community Thursday. They're calling for an expansion of current small business loan programs with lower rates and emphasized the need for express grants.

"Coming off of the recession, most business are a little bit higher in debt structure than they're used to, so they're reluctant to take on a lot of additional debt at this point," said James King of the New York State Small Business Development Center.

Representatives from the U.S. Small Business Administration say they're working with the Housing and Urban Development agency to put more flexibility into the $60 billion emergency aid bill making its way through Congress.

"We've had some initial discussions," said James Rivera of the U.S. SBA Disaster Assistance.

But so far, there's no guarantee there will be significant grants available for small businesses. The supplemental bill would allow the SBA to leverage about $4.5 billion in additional loans, which the Small Business Committee Chair urged officials to process quickly, pointing to current delays.

"In New York, we have 2,474 applications received, we have 105 that have been approved and 12 loans have been dispersed," said Senator Mary Landrieu, Small Business Committee Chair.

"We're confident that we're gonna be able to get these applications processed timely," Rivera said.

The President's $60 billion disaster aid request comes at a time when Congress is struggling to avert the so-called fiscal cliff, something one republican senator present was sure to point out.

"Unfortunately, Congress is not going to help small businesses in one regard. You can tell them they're taxes are going up," Senator James Risch said.

Democrats argue that higher taxes on the rich won't affect small businesses. And small business owners hope politics don't get in the way.

James King said, "The concern is that we overlook the things that we should be doing whether there's a fiscal cliff or not."

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