Dallas business owners share concerns about tornado recovery process

Many small businesses hit hard by the October tornado outbreak are still trying to bounce back.

The U.S. Small Business Administration says it's there to assist with low-interest loans. However, some business owners say they expect more help from Dallas city leaders.

City leaders and business owners came together on Tuesday to address how the businesses will move forward. And while there are resources available, not everyone is getting the message. Some business owners say the pressure is on city leaders to remove the red tape that's slowing down the process. 

At the meeting Tuesday, city employees were ready to answer questions and representatives of the Small Business Administration promoting low-interest loans

“We are just trying to see what options we have available because our property was damaged severely,” said Joanne Alonzo-Gloria, a property manager.

But only a handful of business owners from the hardest-hit areas of Dallas showed up.

Eric Lindberg with the Northwest Dallas Business Association showed up to the meeting.

“How do we reach all of these people, especially the mom and pop stores that were impacted,” he wondered. “They don't know where to go. They might not speak the language.”

Lindberg says many business owners in his diverse community are difficult to reach with their businesses temporarily shuttered.

The BA is trying to get the message across that its loans are geared toward the uninsured and underinsured, but there's still plenty of opportunity for assistance.

“A lot of times, insurance companies have exclusions, have deductibles. So this might be your insurance check and this might be what you actually need,” said Susheel Kumar with the SBA. “The difference between the two is what we come in to assist with.”

Still, other business owners want to know how the city will help when it comes to the cumbersome process of code compliance, permits and inspections, especially with repairs to older buildings grandfathered in once full of small business.

“There is no way that we can put the tenants that were in there back in those buildings if we have to fully update them to code,” said Chris Wiley, a business owner. “You guys have the political ability to leverage what you have on the council to say, ‘We are just going to grant variances.’”

“I hear you loud and clear. We are going to work on it,” said Dallas City Councilman Omar Narvaez. “We are going to find something that's equitable because we do not want these small businesses to not have a place to call home.”

The councilman went on to say the city has to be sure it's complying with state laws and regulations before it can make allowances for certain businesses. He asked business owners to allow 90 days for city leaders to come up with a plan.