By Chief Political Correspondent Michael Aron
Prashant and Ritu Chawla were trying to get some help today. Their delicatessen sits right on the Hudson in Weehawken and hasn’t opened since Sandy flooded it out three and a half months ago.
So they came to a workshop in Jersey City on Small Business Access to Capital for Sandy victims — and walked out on it.
“I needed help and wherever you go this is the kind of stories they give you, that they are calling you and asking you stuff, but actually they’re giving you loans. A loan is something that I don’t want to take. I don’t want loan. I already have situation with that. This is the kind of help — it’s not help actually,” East Brunswick resident Prashant Chawla said.
Prashant is driving a limousine to make ends meet. He says it would take $100,000 to rebuild and reopen.
“My insurance company sent me a $1,000 check, which is like literally slapping on the face. What kind of coverage is that? They kept taking the money from us for the last 10 years — I’ve been in the business for the last 10 years — and they’re telling me that this is flood damage, flood damage is not covered by their insurance. And they find ways to run away from you. They don’t want to give you anything,” Prashant Chawla said.
The workshop was organized by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Every service a Sandy victim might need was present — lawyers, CPAs, FEMA, the Small Business Administration and others.
“It’s been a successful model when we’ve done this elsewhere in New York, in Coney Island, the Far Rockaways,” said Federal Reserve Bank of New York Vice President Rae Rosen. “FEMA has come back and said, ‘Gee, no one else is pulling everybody together under one roof. Could you continue doing this?’”
But the Chawlas were disappointed.
“This time I was really hoping that we’ll get some help but unfortunately there’s nothing for us here, so far,” Ritu Chawla said.
“From the SBA standpoint, people never want loans, but our disaster loans are really cheap. They’re always looking for grants. We don’t do the grants, but the disaster loans, the terms are unbelievable, so we want people to come out and apply,” said New Jersey District Director of the SBA Alfred Titone.
“It’s like taking a chance. We take a loan for 3 percent and what if we cannot repay it? Then we are in big trouble,” said Ritu Chawla.
The Chawlas eventually sat down with lawyers to explore legal options toward their insurance company.
The Federal Reserve Bank of New York assembled every possible area of expertise for Sandy victims. That the one couple who talked to us walked away disappointed is perhaps symptomatic of all the frustrations caused by the superstorm.