BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The state is opening new doors for small business owners still struggling to get back on their feet after the August 2016 flood. It comes in the form of larger loan amounts with bigger incentives.
Fifteen months after the historic flood, longtime Baton Rouge business, Southern Fastener & Tool Company, is open, but not quite back to where it was before the water took over.
"It's a struggle. It's a day to day, every day is a new day," said owner, Arnold Saucier.
Saucier says it was the first time in 35 years he had to toss out everything his family worked for in one fell swoop. Computers, power tools, everything below two and a half feet of water, he says, had to go. Saucier is starting to restock some of his inventory.
But he also took a huge financial hit.
"That's our livelihood. It's a family oriented business. All of my kids, all of my family works there, so it directly affects everyone who works for me, with me, and everything else," Saucier said.
Lucky for Saucier, the state has expanded the $50,000 cap on small business loans to $150,000 and lowered the minimum from $20,000 to $10,000. The loans are interest free and no down payment is required. Forty percent of the loan can be forgiven as long as it's paid off in five years. The money comes from a Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) gr ant for small business owners through the Restore Louisiana Program.
South Central Planning and Development Commission (SCPDC) expects to disburse $12 million by the end of the year. So far, they say between 120 and 140 businesses have been awarded loans. Program manager, Cullen Curole, says businesses with anywhere from one to fifty employees qualify.
"You didn't have to have water in your building. If you have a decline in revenue because your customers can't get to you or you can't serve your customers, that decline in revenue can make you eligible," Curole said.
Saucier says the loan he closed on Tuesday will give him the financial footing he needs to get his business back on solid ground.
"It's going to allow me to go back and redo my building and buy some additional inventory," Saucier said.
SCPDC office locations and hours:
- Baton Rouge: 9121 Interline; Monday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
- Denham Springs: Library on Florida Boulevard; Nov. 30 to Jan. 4 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.