Anxiety has been mounting for months over the U.S. presidential election and businesses are wary, especially after conflict arose from various social justice protests earlier this year. A contested election could yield widespread chaos, and if it's as extensive as earlier protests, businesses could suffer hundreds of millions in damages.
Many business owners are already taking precautions. From Washinton D.C. to New York City and many places in between, retail stores and office buildings are boarding up. That includes iconic luxury department stores Nordstrom, Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue, and jeweler Tiffany & Co., according to the New York Times.
Physical damage to a business is typically insured by business owner policies or BOPs, but each claim is different and providers may not cover everything. For businesses damaged due to civil unrest, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers help through low-interest loans.
Yet even if protests don't turn violent, they can still harm U.S. businesses. Case in point: In July, Inc. reported that after several nights of protests--which were mostly peaceful--downtown Portland, Oregon, turned into a no-go zone and shop owners preemptively boarded up store windows and doors. The pandemic was also to blame, but abandoned streets didn't help matters.
Businesses can apply for an SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), regardless of what kinds of damages they've suffered. These are loans that can be used for working capital and daily operating expenses and, especially in the case of civil unrest, to replace damaged property. These loans are available in amounts up to $2 million and come with 30-year repayment terms and interest rates as low as 3 percent.
There is also a separate SBA Disaster Assistance program known as Business Physical Disaster Loans, which covers property damage. These loans are available depending on location. Check the SBA's website to review applicable locations. Do note, though, that the loans likely won't be available right away. In August, for example, Pennsylvania was declared a disaster zone and loans became available to businesses in Philadelphia that saw damaged due to civil unrest in June. A business may qualify for both an EIDL and a physical disaster loan.
For now, there are a few precautions you can take. Photograph your store before damages occur, so you can accurately document any damages to property, says Scott Holeman, media relations director of the Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group. Also, have inventory records handy, so you can show a loss of product if need be. Board up windows and save your receipts, so you can document your costs, which may be reimbursed depending on your level of coverage. Finally, be prepared to file a police report if necessary.