As the state continues to recover from Hurricane Irene, Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno predicted it will be a record weekend for Jersey Shore businesses.
In a conference call with top state business officials, Guadagno said beautiful weather and a quick recovery by shore communities have set the stage for the weekend.
“The Jersey Shore is open and ready for business,” she said.
While federal officials have already made a disaster declaration for northern New Jersey, the state is preparing to apply for a declaration in the southern and central regions of the state.
The call covered a wide range of topics related to the disaster recovery.
The New Jersey Economic Development Authority is expanding its Main Street Business Assistance program for disaster-affected businesses. The EDA is expanding the size of a line of credit that it will guarantee from $250,000 to $500,000, and is expanding the number of banks from 15 to 48, according to agency CEO Caren S. Franzini. The EDA board is holding a special meeting Sept. 6 to approve the program expansion, she said.
Businesses in need of state assistance should contact the New Jersey Business Action Center at (866) 534-7789, according to Linda Kellner, its acting executive director. The number to file a claim for federal assistance for damage to both personal and business property is (800) 621-FEMA.
Kellner said different state agencies are making resources available for disaster recovery, including the Department of Community Affairs aiding towns with property inspections, and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development providing facilities for businesses to use phones and the Internet.
Kellner said the number of calls to the center increased 93 percent Thursday morning as businesses assessed damages, with most of the calls so far this week related to restoring power.
Guadagno also updated progress on the recovery, with the number of people without power standing at 200,000 as of 8:30 p.m. Wednesday — down from a peak of 850,000. In addition, 10 state roads remained closed on Thursday, down from 200 immediately after the hurricane. Officials are working to have all roads open by the weekend, she said.
Guadagno said state officials are planning to be in the communities affected by the storms, allowing business owners to have a one-stop shop for disaster assistance rather than having to contact various state agencies in Trenton.
“They will not have to run around Trenton,” Guadagno said.