NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Small businesses that own marinas may soon be able to use federally backed loans to recover from a natural disaster.

If signed into law by Congress, the PREPARE Act would allow money to be available not only after a disaster has impacted a marina but it would also allow them to prepare ahead of time.

Congresswoman Nancy Mace was in the Lowcountry on Tuesday to meet with local businesses and boating stakeholders to learn how the funding would help them.

“The PREPARE Act provides lending opportunities for those who are struggling through the SBA; it’s also a flooding bill, so when we have rising tides, sometimes certain industries like boating need a little extra support and that’s what it’s all about,” said Rep. Mace.

Specifically, the bill would allow small businesses to get a small business loan to either prepare their marina for natural disasters, but also to help pay for repairs after a disaster occurs.

“It’s just going to expedite the timeline exponentially for boaters, and anglers’ access is key for everything we do in this industry,” said Gettys Brannon, President and CEO, SC Boating and Fishing Alliance. “Whether it’s a day out on the boat or you’re going deep-sea fishing, you have to be able to put the boat in the water.”

Chris Butler, who owns Butler Marine, has marinas in both Charleston and Beaufort. He said the PREPARE Act would have helped him after the disaster hit his marina in 2021.

“July 7, 2021, and what happened is there was a tropical depression that came through, we didn’t think it was going to be much by the time it got to the store in Beaufort. At that time, I had a dry stack in Port Royal right beside Beaufort. But it ended up being a bigger deal; we had a micro tornado that came off of it and took out 90% of our docks.”

Butler had to use $125,000 he had planned for new business equipment to make the repairs and insurance deductibles. With a PREPARE Act loan, he could have made the repairs and continued to grow his business at the same time.

But often a storm can kill a business.

“40 to 60% of all small businesses after a storm or natural disaster never reopen,” said Rep. Nancy Mace. “Once they close, they’re gone.”

“A lot of small businesses don’t re-open. A lot of banks, if you’re trying to go to the bank and say I just need a short-term loan to get restarted, the banks don’t typically want to lend you money when you’re not able to perform and that’s where you need the backing of the federal government,” Butler said.

Rep. Mace said her proposal could become law this year, but it’s more likely that will happen next year.