SBA could declare Pike County a disaster area, provide loans

Published 11:00 pm Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Red Cross volunteers visited tornado damaged areas to assist first responders, volunteers and storm victims last week. Four mobile homes in Brantley Mobile Home Park (pictured above) were destroyed when an EF-2 tornado tore through Pike County.

Even though Pike County did not meet the financial threshold for FEMA funds, there is still hope for area tornado victims.

The Small Business Association will be in Pike County Thursday to assess damage to decide if the SBA can declare the county a disaster area.

“The SBA’s parameters are a little lower when deciding on a declaration,” said Pike County Emergency Management Agency Director Jeanna Barnes. “This could be the only government help we receive.”

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If the SBA agrees that Pike County residents are in need of assistance, homeowners, renters and business owners will be eligible to apply for low interest, long-term disaster loans.

“At the last count, we had more than 60 families impacted by the tornado, in some way,” Barnes said. “This could be the help they need.”

Renters and homeowners may borrow up to $40,000 to repair or replace clothing, furniture, cars or appliances that were damaged or destroyed. Homeowners may apply for up to $200,000 to repair or replace a primary home. Loans may not be used to upgrade or make additions to homes, unless required by a building authority.

Qualified rental properties may be eligible for assistance under the SBA’s business loan program.

While the SBA cannot duplicate benefits provided by insurance companies, it can extend a loan with insurance coverage deducted from the total damage of a home.

For applicants who are able to obtain credit through other means, the interest rate will not exceed eight percent and for those who can’t obtain credit elsewhere, the interest rate will not exceed four percent.

Loan terms are based on a case-by-case basis, but long-term payments may be extended up to 30 years.

“We are hoping to be able to get our local people some help,” Barnes said. “We have been heavily dependent on our volunteer groups and charities.”

Social media is also being used to assist Pike County tornado victims. Barnes said hashtags have been implemented on Twitter to help identify needs and donations. For people who have items to donate, use #pctorndadohaves. For people who would like to identify a specific need in the community, use #pctornadoneeds.

On Facebook, the Pike County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) has organized a page to help people connect with other volunteers.

Barnes said she isn’t sure how long it will take the SBA to make a decision whether or not to declare Pike County a disaster area.