This week, two Republicans representing South Florida on Capitol Hill–U.S. Reps. Byron Donalds and Maria Elvira Salazar sent a letter to Isabella Guzman, the administrator of the Small Business Administration (SBA), urging her to provide more information on the preparedness of the Office of Disaster Assistance (ODA) for the 2021 hurricane season and the office’s ability to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic while also managing loans stemming from natural disasters.
The full text of the letter is below:
Dear Administrator Guzman:
Today marks the official start of the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently predicted that we will once again be facing an above-average number of storms, with the potential of 6-10 major hurricanes. The Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Office of Disaster Assistance (ODA) provides vital resources to businesses and homeowners when natural disasters strike. ODA has shouldered a massive increase in responsibility since the beginning of 2020, distributing almost $210 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). Furthermore, ODA has now been tasked with administering the nascent Shuttered Venue Operator Grant (SVOG) Program.
ODA’s efforts have been crucial to the recovery of the U.S. economy which is why we cannot allow this work to distract the Agency from the all-too-real possibility of a devastating hurricane season.
For these reasons we request you answer the following questions:
What actions is the SBA presently taking to ensure that ODA has the necessary resources to continue to administer the EIDL and SVOG programs while also preparing for loans stemming from future disasters?
What are the current staffing levels for ODA? Moreover, in your opinion, does ODA have sufficient staff to fulfill its duties?
Of current personnel, are certain staff members assigned to administer EIDL, SVOG, and Physical Disaster loans specifically? If so, how many are assigned to each program?
What changes have been made to ODA’s natural disaster response protocol following the challenges we saw during the 2020 hurricane season?
We thank you for your ongoing support of small businesses who are still struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic. There is still work to be done to ensure that business and homeowners – still recovering from one of the greatest economic downturns our Country has ever seen – are properly equipped to face the threat of natural disasters during the 2021 hurricane season.
We look forward to your responses on these questions and hope to work together to get these vital resources to the American people in a timely manner.