SBA will make low-interest loans available here
By Marcy Stamper
Finding that “the impact to individuals and households from this event [the wildfire] was not of the severity or magnitude to warrant the designation,” the federal administrator for disaster relief rejected Gov. Jay Inslee’s second request for assistance to individuals affected by the Carlton Complex Fire.
Administrator Craig Fugate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) said the agency had reviewed updated numbers presented by the governor in support of grants to people made homeless in the fire. More than 250 homes were destroyed and another 23 severely affected, according to the governor’s request. The brief letter denying funds, counseling and special unemployment benefits was dated Sept. 23.
“It is unfortunate that FEMA did not see the merits of our case,” Inslee said. “The fires impacted low-income communities that have very little housing available for families who suffered devastating losses when their homes and possessions burned.”
While FEMA did not declare a disaster for individuals, the federal Small Business Administration (SBA) did, declaring a major disaster in Okanogan County and in contiguous counties that might have been affected by the fire. Inslee made the request to SBA last week after receiving FEMA’s decision.
The SBA declaration, which makes low-interest disaster loans available to individuals and business owners, was announced Monday (Sept. 29). The loans tend to have easier criteria for qualification than a traditional bank loan, said Hank Cramer, executive director of Methow Valley Long Term Recovery.
After the FEMA denial, Inslee promised the state would remain involved to help people recover, including creating an Okanogan Recovery Task Force “to explore every option for providing needed assistance.” The task force will coordinate the efforts of state agencies, many of which administer federal programs, according to Sheryl Jardine, the state coordinator for the Carlton Complex with the Washington Emergency Management Division.
“The main objective is to see what resources have been committed and those that have not been tapped yet,” said Jardine.
The state and FEMA also worked together over the past two weeks to assess housing needs and ensure that people are safe for the winter — or to learn what they need to be safe, said Jardine. The joint team was successful in contacting most people who lost housing and is completing a report this week, which will be furnished to local long-term recovery organizations.
As part of FEMA’s major disaster declaration for public infrastructure, three volunteer agency liaisons are in the county to assist public entities, according to Denise Worhach, a public information officer with FEMA. That declaration also helps local governments with emergency protective measures. Thus far, $55,000 in public assistance funds for debris removal and protective measures have been obligated, said Worhach.
The liaisons provide expertise to local governmental groups, advising them on forming an unmet-needs committee that will help affected individuals, said Worhach. FEMA also has a staffer providing technical assistance on community development, such as on state and federal grant and loan programs.
Low-interest disaster loans
SBA disaster loans of up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Another $40,000 is available to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property.
Businesses and nonprofits may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged property, equipment and inventory. SBA can lend additional funds to homeowners and businesses to help with prevention and protection from future disasters.
SBA also offers economic injury disaster loans, which help with loss of revenue or cash flow associated with the disaster, even if the businesses suffered no direct property damage.
Interest rates can be as low as 2.188 percent for homeowners and renters, 2.625 percent for private nonprofit organizations, and 4 percent for businesses, with terms up to 30 years.
Two SBA loan representatives are at disaster loan outreach centers in Twisp and Pateros to answer questions about the loan program, explain the application process and help people complete an application. No appointment is necessary.
In Twisp, the outreach center is at 209 Third Ave. (the offices of Methow Valley Long-Term Recovery and satellite office space for the Cove), and is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
In Pateros, representatives are at the fire station on 191 Industrial Way. Hours are the same.
People may also apply online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.
The filing deadline for property damage is Nov. 28, 2014. The deadline for economic-injury applications (i.e., loss of revenue) is June 29, 2015.