The Washington Times-Herald

February 15, 2014

SBA opens office to aid tornado relief

By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald

---- — Almost three months after a tornado swept through Daviess County the U.S. Small Business Administration has set up an office offering some relief for the victims of the storm.

A pair of SBA representatives opened the temporary office at Washington’s West End fire station to answer questions and assist people in filling out applications. “Our goal is to help as many people as possible recover from their uncompensated losses,” said Travis Brown with SBA.

Washington is the third stop for the two-man office. Previously they had shops in Kokomo and Hillsboro. “The response has been a lot more that we expected, especially when you consider the actual event happened three months ago,” said Brown.

That event in Daviess County saw an EF-2 tornado touch down in the Maysville area then sweep into the west side of Washington before roaring down Sycamore Street. It left behind at least 112 damaged homes and businesses. The tornado in Washington was one of more than 20 around Indiana marking the second largest tornado outbreak in Indiana history. State officials originally sought grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency but FEMA did not approve the disaster declaration. The state appealed and was turned down a second time. That was when Indiana turned to the SBA disaster assistance.

“Once that request was made we were on-site and ready to provide services within ten days,” said Brown.

SBA is offering low-interest loans to homeowners, renters and businesses affected by the tornado. Home disaster loans are available at a rate of 2.25 percent, business loans at 4 percent and non-profit loans at 2.62 percent.

The loans can last for as long as 30 years.

“Many of these loans can have longer terms than a traditional lender would offer,” explained Brown. “We try to tailor them to the person’s ability to pay them off.”

“It’s a worthwhile program and pretty generous, especially with the way they tailor the loans,” said Daviess County Emergency Management Agency Director Paul Goss. “I think the program could have legitimate results.”

SBA officials say the process to apply is pretty simple. “People come in and we take some personal information, then put them in front of a computer to fill out the formal application,” said Brown. “We’ll even assist them if they need help with the computer. Once that is done the file is turned over to an inspector who will quantify the amount of both the real and personal damages. We have had some applications we processed earlier this week where the inspector is already on site. The applications are moving pretty fast right now. After that a decision will be made within ten days.”

The process requires no money. “There are no application fees,” explained Brown. “All it will cost you is about an hour of your time.”

Even though the program is being made available long after the disaster Goss believes there is still a need. “When you go down into the Sycamore Street area you still see a lot of homes that have just made temporary repairs,” he said. “It doesn’t appear there has been a lot of recovery. This is a resource for recovery. I think the potential is there.”

“We know with that much time gone by a lot of people have moved on,” said Brown. “We’re inviting people to come in and see what we’ve got and what we can do for them.”

The office opened just as the latest snow storm to hit Daviess County began. During the first hour only one person came in to file an application. “I hope people can come in,” said Goss. “I hope we don’t wind up with weather interfering with our recovery from a weather disaster.”

The SBA representatives will be at the West End fire station on Walnut Street today from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. and on Monday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Even if people cannot make it to the temporary office they still have until April 7, 2014 to apply online. People can contact the SBA by email at disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. They can also visit the SBA website at www.sba.gov.