SEBRING — The U.S. Small Business Administration, despite its name, helps individuals, non-profit organizations as well as small business owners apply and obtain low interest disaster loans. Applications can be made online, by phone or mail or at the Disaster Recovery Site at 4509 George Blvd.
Home and personal property loans are available for those homeowners and renters with non-structural damage up to $40,000 such as clothing, furniture, appliances and even vehicles. This same group can apply for up to $200,000 for damage repairs to a primary residence in order to get the home back to its pre-Irma condition.
Business physical disaster loans are available for private or public business or non-profit organization that incurred damage as a result of Hurricane Irma. This loan caps out at $2 million.
The economic injury disaster loans also have a $2 million ceiling. The EID loans are meant to replace equipment, inventory and payroll.
Public Affairs Specialist Dorris Evans urges applications to be filed, even if the loans may not be needed in the long run.
“It is important to get applications in because processing the loan may take four weeks,” said Evans. “The date for homeowners, renters and non-profits to file is Nov. 9. Businesses have until June 11, 2018 to file for economic injury.”
Evans says that SBA helps people to prepare for the next disaster by being better prepared.
“Anyone who has an SBA loan has to carry insurance,” she said.
The first step is to apply with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, either online or at the DRC site.
“That will automatically generate an SBA application number that people will need when applying for the loan,” Evans said. “The most important thing people can do when applying is to make sure that they provide all the income information that they can.
“The loans are based on credit and income. It will all need to be verified,” she said. “If there is any information missing, it could prolong the process or cause it to be declined.”
Evans said that clients should have an itemized estimate of their disaster expenses. She also said that denials are eligible for reconsideration. If a customer is denied a loan, they are referred back to FEMA to help in locating resources.
“People need to know we are here for the long-term recovery,” she said. “We will be here for the foreseeable future.”
SBA customer service agents will be at the DRC from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week. To apply via phone, call 800-659-2955.
So far, FEMA has referred over 7,000 people to SBA; 465 applications have been received; nine applications have been approved and $317,600 has been approved for home loans. In business loans, 1,485 people have been referred to FEMA; only 24 applications have been received and one has been approved for $19,200.
The economic injury numbers are much less with 22 referrals, seven applications received and none approved as yet. The total amount approved for Highlands County is $336,800.