Some 5,000 Puerto Rico small businesses expected to close after Hurricane Maria; 35% could not reopen
SAN JUAN – Ten percent, or about 5,000 of Puerto Rico’s 50,000 small and midsize businesses (pymes in Spanish) will not operate again after the devastation left by Hurricane Maria Sept. 20, according to the United Retailers Association (CUD by its Spanish acronym) and its president, Nelson J. Ramírez.
He told Caribbean Business that a survey conducted by the organization revealed, more than a month after Hurricane Maria’s passage, that about 35% of small and midsize businesses have not resumed operations because they do not have electricity.
“Many of those that are operating are using generators but will have to shut down because their generators are failing and they cannot get parts to repair them. We already have several restaurants that have collapsed,” Ramírez said.
CUD is providing assistance to businesses and has established, together with the U.S. Small Business Administration, a business restoration center—at the association’s headquarters in San Juan’s Hato Rey district—to be able to provide grants and loans to businesses. Next week, the Minority Business Administration will join their efforts.
Ramírez said Thursday that about 400 retailers visited CUD’s offices to seek help for their businesses. “Of these, 80% were not operating.”
The outlook for retailers is made worse by the fact that as of Friday, funds from the Nutritional Assistance Program (PAN by its Spanish acronym) were not available to beneficiaries, so they are not able to buy supplies from small and midsize merchants.
“Thousands of small businesses depend substantially on the customers who enjoy this benefit, who account for about 38% of the population, according to government figures,” he said.
Ramírez urged the government to allow PAN beneficiaries to withdraw funds from ATM machines, at least until December, so they can make purchases and in consideration of the emergency Puerto Rico is experiencing.