LONG BEACH, N.Y. – When suburban New York delicatessen owner P.J. Whelan heard the findings of a Federal Reserve Bank of New York poll released Monday on Superstorm Sandy’s effect on small businesses, he began nodding in agreement.
“They got those numbers right,” the Long Beach, N.Y., businessman said of the results that found a third of small businesses in tri-state Sandy disaster areas reported financial losses a year after the devastating storm struck.
The findings were from an online poll conducted from Oct. 10 to Dec. 31, 2013.
It looked at businesses in New York, New Jersey and coastal Connecticut with fewer than 500 employees in sectors including manufacturing, retail, construction, real estate, leisure and hospitality.
Of those sustaining economic losses, 22 per cent reported they totalled more than $100,000.
Sixty-one per cent reported operating at a profit or breaking even.
In Long Beach, an oceanfront community just east of New York City, city officials estimate that 10 per cent of its 33,000 residents have yet to return to their homes. In some neighbourhoods only a few blocks from the ocean, the whir of chain saws and the thud of hammers are ubiquitous as construction trucks and crews clog the city’s streets.
The Federal Reserve Bank found that about a third of the companies polled had no insurance and only a small number owned flood or business disruption insurance. More than half said they covered storm-related expenses out of their own pockets.
That was the case for Whelan and his deli.
“We’re centrally located between two bodies of water and the odds of it happening; people just took the odds that it would never happen.”
Whelan said it took him eight months to recover from flooding to his store and spent an estimated $130,000 in savings and personal loans to get back to making egg sandwiches and serving coffee to his customers. Still, because the population is still lagging, he has yet to return to profitability, he said.
“Your costs to put the business back together don’t go down, they don’t disappear,” he said. “You still owe your creditors. You still owe your contractors.”