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Some Businesses Struggling to Reopen After the Flood

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Artisan Shop Owner Tonya Henson says she is closing her business in Greenbrier County

A month after the flood, businesses in the communities affected by the home are struggling. Some businesses in affected towns have reopened, but others say they are closing their doors for good.

Along Route 60 in the small town of Crawley near Rupert, Tonya Henson says she’s closing her little roadside stand, called "Made By Me". A Greenbrier County native who recently opened her own business- an artist’s shop that's located in a small wooden cabin right off the highway. There, she’s been selling handmade jewelry, wind chimes, and bird baths. 

Hanson makes money clips out of butter knives, bracelets out of spoons and elephants out of forks. She’s been making the gifts for about ten years. In 2014, after being laid off from two jobs, she decided to turn it into a career. She opened this roadside shop this past May.

“And it did great until the flood three weeks ago. And the flood wiped out cities and towns, so people really don’t have the money to buy bird baths. It’s not that they don’t have the money, it’s they don’t have a place to live. There’s more important things to think about right now.”

Hanson worries about her business staying afloat in the wake of June’s floods, and she’s not alone.

The West Virginia Department of Commerce says more than 1,000 businesses have filed for federal assistance.

But business owners like Hanson’s that have suffered economic injury as a result of high water can apply for a low interest loan through the Small Business Administration. The SBA offers Disaster Loans to homeowners, renters and business owners to help them rebuild after federal disasters.

This includes people who did not have flood insurance.

Still, for some people, like Hanson, even a low interest loan is a financial risk they can’t take right now.

“So, I’m gonna close the store, and for now I have to do something with a more solid income.”

For now, she's going to try to sell her crafts at a store called Tiky Boo in Beckley.

She says West Virginians are tough, and she thinks the communities will find a way to rebuild. She might reopen her roadside shop, if things in Rainelle and Rupert pick back up.

House Speaker Tim Armstead is asking Governor Tomblin to consider offering state aid to small business owners who may need to rebuild, but Tomblin has said West Virginia’s economic climate may prevent the state from being able to provide much help. Without that help, it’s possible a number of businesses, like Hanson’s, may not reopen.

The deadline to apply for a Disaster Loan through the Small Business Administration is August 24th. These loans are different than the housing and needs assistance grants provided by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. For more information about how to apply for assistance, visit WVFlood.com.

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