Thousands of Hurricane Katrina and Rita evacuees throughout the Southeast who have registered for help from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are failing to complete an important step in that process, say FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) officials.
That step is completing the SBA loan form that is sent to applicants along with an information packet when they register for FEMA assistance. There are several forms in the packet. Completing the SBA loan application is required for all applicants.
Evacuees must return the SBA forms by Jan. 11, 2006 whether they want a loan or not, before they can receive additional assistance. Once they have taken that step, it can be determined whether they are eligible for a loan or a grant. A loan must be repaid whereas a grant does not.
“Evacuees need not wait to settle their insurance claims before applying and returning their SBA application packets,” said Michael Lampton, communications manager at SBA’s disaster field operations center in Atlanta. “Disaster victims could be delaying their recovery efforts substantially by doing so.”
The SBA looks at the income-to-debt ratio of those who apply to determine if they are eligible. Based on this information, the SBA determines whether the applicant has the resources to pay back a low-interest loan. If the applicant can’t afford a loan or they do not qualify, they will be directed to FEMA grants and other resources.
“We want evacuees to have access to every resource available to them,” said Paul Fay, federal coordinating officer at FEMA’s joint field office in Atlanta. “These families and individuals have suffered great losses and we want to help them rebuild their lives as quickly as possible. They need to understand that they will not be able to get that help unless they return the loan application form.”
The loans are the main source of federal help for long-term recovery for homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes. The loans pay for repairs of damages to private property not fully covered by insurance:
* Loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners for real estate repairs.
* Homeowners are also eligible for up to $40,000 replacement of disaster-damaged personal property.
* Renters may borrow up to $40,000 to replace disaster-damaged personal property.
* Business owners may borrow up to $1.5 million for losses not covered by insurance.
* Business owners also may apply for loans even if they suffered no property damage but their businesses were financially impacted by Hurricane Katrina.
If evacuees need help completing the forms in the packet, they can call the SBA at 1-800-659-2955 or visit www.sba.gov/disaster. Completed applications can be mailed to the U.S. Small Business Administration, National Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Forth Worth, Texas 76155.
Evacuees who have not yet registered for help need to call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) or (TTY) 1-800-462-7585 or go online at www.fema.gov. SBA forms will arrive with their information packet.
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