Avoiding Ecological and Economic Disasters

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On Tuesday, President Trump announced signing an Executive Order that both extends and expands the ban on oil drilling off Florida. Specifically, the order extends the current moratorium on any drilling in the Gulf of Mexico’s federal waters — which start just 9 miles offshore — off Florida’s west coast for another ten years.

Further, the order expands the ban to now include the Atlantic coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, something boaters, anglers, conservationists and others have wanted. Two years ago, more than two-thirds of voting Floridians passed a constitutional amendment banning drilling in the state’s waters.

The fear about the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 workers and spewed 4.9 million barrels (210 million gallons) of oil into the Gulf for nearly 4 months is still vivid for most of us who love recreating on the Gulf. Unlike the other Gulf Coast states, most of Florida’s coast was spared oil washing up on shorelines.

But the overall damage from the BP disaster remains mind-boggling. A staggering 92,500 miles of surface water was contaminated; 22,000 tons of oil washed up on 1,300 miles of coastline; more than 5,000 marine mammals were estimated killed; hundreds of species of fish we anglers pursue in the Gulf were exposed to the oil and trillions of larval were killed; and 3,200 square miles of Gulf floor, an area the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined, were contaminated with oil that scientists estimate up to 50 percent remains in the depths today.

Thankfully, those of us who live on Florida’s west coast — and Atlantic coasters in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina — can feel better about the Gulf’s future.

Disasters of another kind

Hurricanes, flooding and Covid-19’s economic disaster — many in the marine industry are being challenged as never before. Surprisingly, or perhaps not if you’ve already been hit, a whopping 50 disasters of one kind or another have already been declared this year in our country and we still have 4 months to go.

Today, it’s hats off to Marine Retailers Association of the Americas for taking the industry lead, along with the National Marine Manufacturers Association and Association of Marina Industries in pushing the PREPARE Act. The bipartisan legislation would give small businesses access to capital for investment in disaster resilient infrastructure.

Specifically, the PREPARE Act would enable the Small Business Administration to make low-interest, fixed rate loans of up to $500,000 for businesses to invest in protecting their facilities, real estate and contents from natural disasters. The recent damages wrought by Hurricane Laura clearly illustrate the value of such legislation. A study by the MRAA and the AMI found that marine businesses need significant funding to protect from flooding, requiring an average of $260,000 to invest in projects like elevating buildings, bulkheads, constructing flood barriers or levees, dry and wet floodproofing, yard regrading, sewer back-up protections and more.

If passed, it would become the only SBA program focused solely on small business disaster prevention. Further, it would complement the after-the-fact loans for rebuilding through the SBA’s Disaster Loan programs.

Right now, in response to the 50 disasters already on the books including Hurricane Laura, the SBA is offering disaster loans to those businesses impacted, including marine. The program is the main federal assistance offered to repair and rebuild private sector disaster losses.

The loans are reportedly available to businesses of all sizes, and non-profits, too. They can provide up to $2 million to repair or replace the following: damaged or destroyed real estate; machinery and equipment; inventory; and other business assets.

There is also the Emergency Injury Disaster Relief Loan — available now — that can provide economic help to small businesses and non-profit organizations currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue.

Before you begin to examine any of these, make sure your county is included in the designated disaster area (most disaster areas are designated by the county).

Finally, forget working with your banker on this one. Disaster Loans are not offered by participating SBA lenders. Rather, they come directly from the SBA.

You may apply online using the SBA’s Disaster Loan Application, or you can apply directly to the SBA from a DisasterAssistance.Gov account if you have one.

If you want to learn more and pursue any of these help possibilities, you can get one-on-one assistance with an SBA disaster loan application by contacting the SBA Customer Service Center at 1-800-877-8339 or email customerservice@sba.gov

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