About six months following Terry Schneider’s brain surgery, Hurricane Harvey struck Texas and damaged her home and business space. She applied for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and for a U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loan but was denied for both in mid-September, 2017.
“I wasn’t getting anywhere,” said Schneider, 72. With the help of the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center (SBDC), she appealed the SBA’s denial and was approved for a disaster loan of $25,000 in late November. Schneider said writing an appeal letter can make all the difference, and others should, too, if they still need help after being denied.
Schneider had to have surgery because she had a brain aneurysm that was most likely the result of a wreck in 2000, she said. Before her brain surgery, she was an optometrist in Victoria and Aransas Pass. After being denied disaster assistance, Schneider reached out to one of her close friends, who recommended she go see the University of Houston-Victoria SBDC. Humphreys, the center’s executive director, said the two met the day before Thanksgiving and wrote an appeal email to the SBA on Schneider’s iPhone. “The appeal process is something that more people need to know about,” he said. “Sometimes the reason they’re declined is a minor issue.”
When an applicant writes an appeal letter, they’re telling the SBA they want the agency to look at their case again. When someone sends an appeal letter, Humphreys said, higher level officials make the decision to approve it or not. “It’s really letting the SBA know more details and extenuating circumstances,” he said. “If you don’t let them know, then they go down the road and look at another one.”
Humphreys said when people are denied, they often automatically move on and look for other options. He said the process can take time, but if the appeal is approved, it’s worth the wait, especially if someone needs the help. SBA disaster loans are available to homeowners, renters, small business owners and nonprofits for damages to buildings, loss of property and loss of business income because of Hurricane Harvey, Humphreys said. “There are so many people that need help,” he said.
Schneider’s roof was substantially damaged, letting water into her upstairs living area. She owns a two-story building and has her optometrist office downstairs along with a smaller living area. Now that Schneider has the SBA disaster loan, she has options for what she’s going to do next, she said. When she was denied, she was at a standstill. Once she finishes repairing her roof and air conditioning and removing the mold from her home, she hopes to become an optometrist again or rent the business space to a barber. “I need to sharpen up my skills and get myself going,” she said. “I’m ready.”
“She was so happy when she called and told me she got that letter approving her. It was the coolest thing,” Humphreys said. “She is going to be able to fix a residence and get her rental property back. In addition to working with SBDC is here to help folks like Terry with appeal letters, contingency plans, and available resources for disaster recovery.”
There are over 50 SBDCs in Texas working every day with business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs on their business issues and exploring growth opportunities. SBDCs in the area impacted by the disaster have the capacity to walk business owners thru various application processes, reconstruct financials, develop and analyze contingency plans, submit appeals if denied, and more. SBDCs are funded by the SBA, the State of Texas, and local colleges and universities. Find your local Texas SBDC at sbdctexas.org.
Original article and photo by the Victoria Advocate, Kathryn Cargo 12/3/17