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Flood victims can get SBA loans

Wednesday, Escambia County emergency management officials announced the county did not meet the threshold for individual federal assistance set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for damage to homes and businesses during December’s weeklong rains that caused severe flooding throughout the county.

Thursday, Covington County EMA director Susan Carpenter said that announcement “is a good indication” local home and business owners will also have to make flood-related repairs on their own.

“If they didn’t meet the threshold with as much flood and water damage that they had, we’re not going to be eligible either,” Carpenter said. “There has to be a certain total for the whole area — which in our case was us, Escambia, Baldwin, Conecuh and Monroe counties. I was hoping Escambia had a high enough total that our local homeowners could slide in and be included for help too.”

But in the absence of FEMA assistance, there is other help for local home and business owners in the form of low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Just before Christmas, Gov. Bob Riley requested funds become available through the SBA for those in Alabama’s affected counties, as well as Escambia, Okaloosa and Santa Rosa in Florida.

Those funds were made available Wednesday.

Loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for loans up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property.

SBA Centers are available at the Atmore Public Library or the Escambia County Courthouse; however, Alabama residents affected by the severe storms and flooding may apply for disaster loans from SBA’s secure Web site at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela/ or by calling 1-800-659-2955.

The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage is March 1, 2010.

The cost of the flood in the county and municipalities — including damage to roads and bridges and overtime by law enforcement and emergency personnel — has been estimated at more than $6 million. But local governments are still awaiting word on whether FEMA help will be available to assist with those costs.