(Updated: March 22, 2019. Originally posted August 28, 2015 )

During the decade since Katrina’s storm surge flooded 80 percent of New Orleans and destroyed homes and businesses along a hundred miles of Gulf of Mexico beaches in Mississippi and Alabama, a string of disasters—natural and manmade—have revisited the region. Starting later in 2005 with Hurricane Rita and including the BP Oil spill, the disasters have hurt small and big businesses alike. Small and local businesses are less likely to survive such a disaster, however. But when it comes to resilience after a disaster—having the most positive impact, quickest—small and local businesses lead the way. 

Preparing for every possible disaster that can impact a small business is probably impossible. However, there are hundreds of government agencies at the federal, state and local level that provide information that can assist you in thinking through the types of disasters that may be most common in your region or industry. In addition to the links to the federal and state (and U.S. territories) agencies listed below, there are countless local and non-profit organizations (or, “non-government organizations,” NGO).

(If you discover a broken link on the list below, or know of another federal or state resource, please email us at: [email protected].)

Small Business Administration disaster preparation and assistance resources

The SBA provides a wide range of services and loan programs for disaster planning and post-disaster assistance efforts. It’s important to understand that the term “disaster assistance” is a technical term with a specific legal meaning when it comes to assistance from the federal government. It refers to the money provided to individuals, families and businesses in an area whose property has been damaged or destroyed following a Presidential-declared disaster; and whose losses are not covered by insurance. Loans may be available to businesses that have suffered an economic loss as a result of the disaster. Assistance is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the SBA, the Farm Services Agency (FSA) and state governments.

Disaster and Economic Injury Loans

The SBA and USDA provide low-interest loans to businesses and individuals to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, inventory and business assets that have been damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster.

  • Home and Property Disaster Loans
    Renters and homeowners alike may borrow up to $40,000 to repair or replace clothing, furniture, cars, appliances, etc. damaged or destroyed in the disaster. Homeowners may apply for up to $200,000 to repair or replace their primary residence to its pre-disaster condition.
  • Disaster Assistance Loans
    SBA provides low interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private, nonprofit organizations to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery & equipment, inventory and business assets that have been damaged or destroyed in a declared disaster.
  • Economic Injury Loans
    If your small business or private nonprofit organization has suffered economic injury, regardless of physical damage, and is located in a declared disaster area, you may be eligible for financial assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
  • Military Reservist Economic Injury Disaster Loans
    Provides funds to eligible small businesses to meet their ordinary and necessary operating expenses that they were unable to meet due to an essential employee being “called-up” to active duty in their role as a military reservist.
  • Farm Emergency Loans
    Offers emergency loans to help producers recover from production and physical losses due to drought, flooding, other natural disasters, or quarantine.

The Farm Service Agency also provides a disaster assistance guide for farmers and ranchers for natural disaster losses resulting from drought, flood, fire, freeze, tornadoes, and pest infestation.

Employment Assistance

Tax Relief Assistance

Other federal agencies with disaster preparation and assistance resources

U.S. State & Territory Disaster and Emergency Agencies (Updating)

In the days after Katrina, the 350 helicopters and more than 70 fixed wing aircraft were provided by all branches of the U.S. military for search and rescue efforts and disaster relief. (Photo, PO2 NyxoLyno Cangemi, US Coast Guard.)

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