News-Sun photo by KATARA SIMMONS According to FEMA officials, just 83 Highlands County residents and businesses applied for assistance and only 45 applicants took advantage of the disaster relief center which was set up in Sebring last week to aid people who suffered damage from Tropical Storm Debby.
published: Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Debby victims can still get help
By ED BALDRIDGE
SEBRING -- Even though the local disaster recovery center has closed, there is still an opportunity to apply for assistance from the damage caused by Tropical Storm Debby.
Mary Margaret Walker, spokeswoman handling Highlands County for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), said Monday that citizens have until Sept. 4 to claim physical damage to person or property and April 3, 2013 to claim economic injury.
FEMA, through the Small Business Administration's Office of Disaster Assistance, offers both grants -- which do not have to repaid if you meet the income restrictions -- and low interest loans.
"These loans are provided for any uncompensated, uninsured losses," Walker said.
"These loans are not only for the business owner, but for the homeowner and renters as well," she added.
According to Walker, just 83 Highlands County residents and businesses applied for assistance and only 45 applicants took advantage of the disaster relief center, which was open at the Bert J. Harris III Agri-Civic Center on George Boulevard.
"The number seems kind of small," said Walker. "It is kind of a shame that we have so many emergency benefits and so few are taking advantage of them."
Walker stated in an previous News-Sun article that there are "grants for temporary housing. We can provide rental assistance for up to 18 months following a disaster. There are funds available for some repairs to make a home habitable; minimal repairs like roof replacing, things like that."
Grant assistance can also cover medical needs, equipment replacement (washer, dryers, computers) and funeral assistance. Each of the previous items are "other needs assistance" items and funds will only be granted if the assistance is needed to a direct result of the disaster, said Walker.
"I encourage everyone who had damage not covered by insurance to give us a call. We can help with not only housing and house repairs, we can help businesses, help with medical and dental. Even transportation if your car was damaged," Walker said.
The breakdown of the county numbers were not available at press time, but Walker pointed out that 5,011 homeowners applied for grants and loans statewide.
Applications for business assistance have reached 1,226 and 19 have applied for economic injury.
Beverlyn McDonald, public affairs specialist for the United States Small Business Administration Office of Disaster Assistance, supplied a breakdown of the caps and regulation on SBA grants and loans.
"SBA regulations limit home loans to $200,000 for the repair or replacement of real estate and $40,000 to repair or replace personal property. Subject to these maximums, loan amounts cannot exceed the verified uninsured disaster loss," she said.
"The law limits business loans to $2 million for the repair or replacement of real estate, inventories, machinery, equipment and all other physical losses. Subject to this maximum, loan amounts cannot exceed the verified uninsured disaster loss."
"The law limits Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) to $2 million for alleviating economic injury caused by the disaster."
"The $2 million statutory limit for business loans applies to the combination of physical, economic injury, mitigation and refinancing, and applies to all disaster loans to a business and its affiliates for each disaster. If a business is a major source of employment, SBA has the authority to waive the $2 million statutory limit," she added.
"Only uninsured or otherwise uncompensated disaster losses are eligible. Any insurance proceeds which are required to be applied against outstanding mortgages are not available to fund disaster repairs and do not reduce loan eligibility. However, any insurance proceeds voluntarily applied to any outstanding mortgages do reduce loan eligibility."
"Secondary homes, personal pleasure boats, airplanes, recreational vehicles and similar property are not eligible, unless used for business purposes. Property such as antiques and collections are eligible only to the extent of their functional value. Amounts for landscaping, swimming pools, etc., are limited," she said.
Even renters can apply for assistance under SBA regulation, Walker pointed out.
"The renter can apply for a personal property loan to replace the loss of their contents up to $40,000 at the 1.9 percent interest rate," she said.
"If you have any questions and/or problems with completing the application, you can always go into a disaster recovery center and speak to a customer service representative in person, or apply online, www.sba.gov/ or call the customer service helpline at 800-659-2955."
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