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After Baltimore bridge collapse, Small Business Administration opens recovery centers

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore affected a lot of businesses, so the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering loans to those affected. Wambui Kamau of our member station WYPR reports.

(CROSSTALK)

WAMBUI KAMAU, BYLINE: A few people trickle into an office building in East Baltimore to apply for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan. Business owners impacted by the bridge collapse across Maryland and some counties in surrounding states can apply for the long-term loans of up to $2 million at 4% interest. Vanessa Santiago is a spokeswoman for the SBA. She says the government is offering a better deal than most banks.

VANESSA SANTIAGO: You don't have to pay for the loan for the first year. You don't have to pay interest for the first year. So it's very positive.

KAMAU: Business owners can also apply online. So far, fewer than a hundred people have applied in person. Financial experts say Maryland's economy is losing $15 million daily due to reduced port activity. That's one reason Santiago urges those impacted to apply now.

SANTIAGO: Ask for help when you don't need it yet. It's like going to the supermarket when you're hungry. You don't make good decisions. But if you go to the supermarket and you ate, you can make better decisions.

(CROSSTALK)

KAMAU: Baltimore's port is surrounded by breweries and restaurants that serve port workers.

COSTAS TRIANTAFILOS: You never come to this place without seeing me or Nick or Pete or, you know, a family member, you know? So...

KAMAU: Costas Triantafilos is the owner of Costas Inn, a crab shack that's been in business since the Key Bridge was constructed in the 1970s. He remembers serving meals to the steel workers who built the bridge. For now, his son Nick doesn't see a need to apply for the disaster loan.

NICK TRIANTAFILOS: We're blessed because I don't think we're going to need any help here. We're going to be OK. But I'm glad that it's a venue that people can explore if they're in trouble because a lot of places are going to take hits, you know, depending on how long the port's down.

KAMAU: Alex Del Sordo (ph) became an owner of the Hard Yacht Cafe and Anchor Bay East Marina just 10 days before the bridge collapsed. He thought he had a great plan and he's still confident, but he wants to learn about the disaster loan just in case.

ALEX DEL SORDO: Tomorrow I'll be sitting down with professionals. I will be learning about how this could affect me and what the benefits are. But 4%, 30 years? Shoot, that's a really great thing that we're being provided.

KAMAU: No word on when the port will fully reopen, but authorities say they're working swiftly to get that done.

For NPR News, I'm Wambui Kamau in Baltimore.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLUE WALDO'S "RESTING SOUL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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