By Mike Grant Times Herald
The Washington Times-Herald
---- — After waiting almost three months victims of the November 17 tornado will be able to receive some federal aid from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The governor’s office announced the approval saying businesses, residents and some non-profits in Daviess and 18 other counties will be eligible to receive low-interest federal disaster loans.
“I think this is potentially good news,” said Daviess County Emergency Management Agency Director Paul Goss. “This will provide a mechanism that will help people rebuild. It’s just going to be through low-interest loans.”
The tornado that swept through western Daviess County and the west side of Washington damaged 112 homes and businesses. State officials sought disaster declarations from the Federal Emergency Management Agency that would have provided grants to help victims rebuild, but FEMA turned those down.
“We would have preferred the grants,” said John Erickson with the Indiana Department of Homeland Security. “The SBA loans will help. We’re happy there is some relief. This is a great program that offers a lot of positives for those who were hurt by the tornado.”
The program offers loans of up to $200,000 for the repair or replacement of damaged real estate, up to $40,000 for homeowners and renters to replace damaged personal property, and as much as $2 million for businesses and nonprofits to replace damaged or destroyed real estate, equipment, machinery, inventory and other business assets.
“This is the next best thing to FEMA grants,” said Goss. “It could make a difference for people affected by that storm.”
The SBA will set up temporary offices in Boone, Daviess, Fountain, Grant, Howard and Tippecanoe counties. The office in Washington will be at the West End fire station at 1002 West Walnut Street. It will open Friday, February 14 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Open again on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Then open the following Monday February 17 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.
“People can just walk in apply,” said Goss. “It’s a lot like filling out an application for any other kind of loan.”
The SBA loans appear to be the only federal assistance that will be coming to Daviess County as a result of the tornado. By the time the SBA teams leave the residents will be 3 months removed from EF-2 tornado that turned many of their lives upside down.
“We really tried to get the FEMA grants,” said Erickson. “It took time to get all of the information together and then we we got turned down and it took more time to appeal. I would hope that people who need help go ahead and apply.”
“We are encouraging people to take advantage of this,” added Goss. “People need to move on with their lives.”
The SBA program also makes aid available to people affected by the storm in contiguous counties meaning people who live in Knox, Pike, Dubois, Martin and Greene counties can also qualify for the low interest loans.
“There is some leeway there,” said Goss. “It helps a larger area. We’re glad they’re doing it. We hope it will be beneficial to the community.”
Daviess County and the City of Washington spent thousands of dollars on the clean-up of debris, damaged homes and downed utilities following the storm. That is money that apparently will not be recovered.
“We looked at seeking public assistance through FEMA, but we didn’t feel we had enough damage so we didn’t apply,” said Erickson.
“When FEMA came back for a second look at the damage they told us then we wouldn’t have enough to qualify,” added Daviess County Commissioner Tony Wichman. “They’ve scaled back a lot since Katrina. You don’t budget for a tornado, but if we have to we will go to the county council and ask for an additional appropriation out of the rainy day fund to try and cover those costs.”