What Do SBA & FEMA Have to Offer Storm Victims?

BY MICHAEL CAHILL

If Hurricane Sandy damaged your home or business, then the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are here to help.

Currently in Rockland County, there are two FEMA disaster recovery centers (DRC), one in Pomona at Provident Bank Park, and one in the Village of Piermont at village hall. The DRC in Pomona will continue operating until December 7, and the one in Piermont will remain open through December 1.

At these centers, residents can meet face to face with representatives of FEMA and the SBA to learn about their options when it comes to rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy.

The first thing that every resident should do, is file an insurance claim for his or her storm damages. The purpose of FEMA and SBA money is to step in and help with the things that insurance does not cover.

The next step is to contact FEMA and apply for a grant. This grant money is designed to get you into a safe housing situation as quickly as possible. A FEMA representative will need to inspect your home first before any money is paid out. That money can then be used to for repairs on the home or to arrange temporary housing if the damage is extensive.

If the combination of insurance and FEMA grant money, is not enough there is another option. You can apply for a low interest loan from the SBA. Contrary to its name, in disaster situations like these, the SBA provides low interest loans from the federal government to not just businesses, but also homeowners and renters.

Homeowners are eligible for up to $200,000 in loans (with an interest rate as low as 1.688 percent) from the SBA to repair damage to their property. An additional allowance is available to cover the loss of personal items that may have been damaged during the storm.

Furthermore, homeowners have access to additional funds though the SBA for the construction of preventative measures that would prevent damage to the property in the future.

For businesses, the SBA wants to help you get back on your feet as quickly as possible.  Businesses affected by Hurricane Sandy are eligible for loans of up to $4 million dollars from the SBA with interest rates as low as 4 percent.

That money can be used for repairing physical damage or for what the SBA calls economic damage. If your business was not damaged during the storm, but suffered economic losses because of power outages or the aftereffects of Hurricane Sandy then you could be eligible.

The process of applying for a loan from the SBA is similar to applying for any other loan. Residents can visit the SBA website at sba.gov, call them at 1-800-659-2955, or visit one of the two DRCs in Rockland to meet with a representative face to face. After your application is received, a decision should be made within 10 days.

However if you are considering an SBA loan, you need to act soon. The deadline for loan applications is December 31. By applying, there is no obligation to accept the loan if you are approved. If you are waiting on a decision from your insurance provider about paying for certain damages, the SBA still encourages you to apply.

There is no penalty if you are approved for an SBA loan and later receive reimbursement from your insurance for the same damages. You just have to use that insurance money to pay down your SBA loan.

Do not forget to act quickly if you’d like to meet with a representative in person at one of the DRCs in Rockland, as the one in Pomona will be closed after December 7 and in Piermont on December 1.

For more information about loan options and the loan application, visit sba.gov or visit one of the disaster recovery centers in Rockland County.