Tester Applauds Federal Aid for Bozeman, Whitehall Small Businesses

(MILES CITY, Mont.) – After sending a letter earlier this week to the head of the key federal agency to request assistance, U.S. Senator Jon Tester today praised the quick action by the Small Business Administration to help Bozeman and Whitehall recover from two recent disasters.   SBA is offering working capital loans of up to $2 million at an interest rate of 4 percent with terms up to 30 years for small businesses in Bozeman, which suffered a massive downtown explosion on March 5 and Whitehall, where fire destroyed several buildings March 6.  Tester requested this assistance in a March 24 letter also signed by Montana’s senior Senator Max Baucus. 

“I’ve seen with my own eyes the devastation these two disasters caused,” said Tester who personally toured each site shortly after the events occurred.  “On behalf of all Montanans, I thank the folks at SBA for rushing this aid to our Main Street businesses in our hour of need.”

“The folks in Whitehall and Bozeman have suffered tremendous losses from these disasters,” said Baucus, the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.  “These loans are about making sure businesses have the tools they need to rebuild, to create good paying jobs and serve their communities once again. I’m proud to work with Jon to speed this much-needed federal aid to Montana.”

Small businesses and most private, non-profit organizations qualify for SBA’s low-interest economic injury disaster loans.  SBA makes the loans immediately available to help small businesses meet financial needs caused by the disasters.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure Web site at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.  Disaster loan information and application forms may also be obtained from SBA’s Customer Service Center by calling toll-free (800) 659 2955, emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov, or visiting SBA’s Web site at www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance.  Hearing impaired individuals may call (800) 877 8339.  In-person applications may also be made at limited dates and times at the Bozeman Downtown Partnership and the White Hall Town Council.

Tester serves on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Appropriations Subcommittee that funds the SBA.  He also served on the Committee on Small Business in the 110th Congress and continues to run his small business outside of Big Sandy. 

The text of the letter can be found here:

March 24, 2009

Mr. Darryl Hairston
Acting Administrator
Small Business Administration
409 3rd Street, SW
Washington, DC 20416

Dear Administrator Hairston:

Earlier this month, southwestern Montana was the victim of two independent catastrophic events in the downtown communities of Bozeman and Whitehall.

On Thursday, March 5, a natural gas explosion and resulting fire in downtown Bozeman lead to the collapse of three buildings, prompting evacuation of a two-block area and causing one fatality. Four businesses were immediately destroyed (Boodles, Montana Trails Gallery, LillyLu and Tolstedt Architects) plus the American Legion Hall and four other nearby businesses suffered significant damage (Rocking R Bar, Pickle Barrel, Rocky Mountain Rug Gallery and Starky’s Authentic Delicatessen.) The damage to four residential apartments has also left the residents without housing.

On Friday, March 6, a fire in downtown Whitehall in the main business district destroyed at least four businesses and impacted several others. Around 20 jobs were immediately lost due to the incident. The incident was believed to have started in the back of a local restaurant. The blaze destroyed Cottage Floral and Gifts, The Mint Bar, Legion Street Grill and DD Taxes. Whitehall Drug suffered significant smoke damage and WE Dust Control, Season's Antiques and a physical therapy business were also affected.

It is our understanding that the State of Montana has requested an Economic Injury Declaration for both communities to provide impacted local businesses with needed working capital loans. We support these requests and urge you to act quickly to provide needed relief to the respective communities.

We believe that both communities fit the criteria for assistance with at least five small businesses in each disaster area having suffered substantial economic injury, not covered by business interruption insurance, as a result of the disaster and are in need of financial assistance not otherwise available on reasonable terms.

Bozeman and Whitehall have begun to pick up the pieces from their tragic incidents but the businesses and local communities need assistance from the Small Business Administration to rebuild their historic downtown areas.

We appreciate your consideration of the State’s request and stand ready to provide any assistance that may be required.

Thank you for your prompt attention to these requests.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester
U.S. Senator Max Baucus