SBA leaders come to Selma to assess progress, encourage business owners to apply for help

Leadership from the Small Business Administration was in Selma Feb. 8 to see firsthand the devastation from the Jan. 12 tornado and to find ways to better help recovery efforts.

Through the SBA, disaster survivors can get loans with interest of less than 2% to help with recovery and rebuilding.

Allen Thomas, the regional administrator for the Southeast United States, said the SBA team had met with the FEMA team for “an overall assessment” of the current situation.

“We’re here to put eyes on the location and assess progress and planning as we go forward with the re-imagining and what will be the next step at this location,” Thomas said.

Director of Field Operations Ken Fleming said the SBA has a staff of 70 in Selma. Business recovery centers are “providing one-on-one customer service to business owners.”

Business recovery centers are located at Gospel Tabernacle Church, Edmundite Mission’s Bullock Center and at Felix Heights Community Center. SBA representatives are also working out of FEMA recovery centers.

The deadline for homeowner and renters to apply for a long-term low interest loan is March 16, SBA Public Affairs Specialist Sharon Dooley told the Dallas County Commission at their Feb. 13 meeting.

“The maximum loan a renter may qualify for is $40,000,” Dooley said. “That’s for personal property like furniture, clothing or a vehicle that may have been damaged. Homeowners may qualify for a loan up to $200,000 for physical damage to their primary place of residence. They can also qualify for an additional $40,000 for the personal property.”

She also said homeowners can qualify for an additional 20% of their verifiable damage for “mitigation,” like storm windows, a storm room or grading to take water away from the house.

“The maximum a business can qualify for is $2 million,” Dooley said. “That’s for their business, their equipment and inventory.”

Some businesses may not have had damage to the actual building but may suffer a loss of revenue as a result of a loss of customer base because of the tornado. “We call that economic injury,” Fleming explained. “If you don’t have your customer base because of the tornado, you can apply for what we call economic injury disaster loans.”

Dooley said businesses may not notice a loss until a couple months down the road. Economic Injury Disaster Loans are for everyday business operations like payroll or utilities. That deadline to apply is Oct. 16.

Business owners that want to apply for these loans should come to one of the recovery centers and speak with an SBA representative.

Fleming added that whether a business or individual, all survivors of the tornado should visit with an SBA representative to see if they qualify for assistance.

“It’s a three-step process,” Fleming said. “You apply to FEMA. They may refer you to SBA. But if you get turned down by SBA, you go back to FEMA. Just do not give up.”

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