Homeowners, renters and businesses have until the end of this week to submit disaster loan applications.
The loans can provide low-interest financing for repairing and replacing real estate and personal property damaged by Superstorm Sandy. The deadline to apply for these loans is midnight Friday, March 1.
The loans are from U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) but are not in any way limited to small businesses. (See attached PDF for a fact sheet on the program.)
"Not everybody realizes that when they hear 'Small Business,' " said Karen Knapik, public affairs specialist for the U.S. SBA's Office of Disaster Assistance.
The loans can provide homeowners up to $200,000 for repairs and reconstruction and up to $40,000 to replace personal property at interest rates of as low as 1.69 percent.
Friday is also the last day to register for any other emergency disaster assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This assistance is intended to provide shelter and relief to displaced residents.
To apply for a loan: Visit the Disaster Recovery Center at the Ocean City Free Public Library between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. any day through Friday or apply online at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.
To register for assistance: Visit www.DisasterAssistance.gov or call 800-621-3362
As of Feb. 24, the SBA had approved 7,565 disaster loans to Sandy survivors for a combined $515 million. Of that total, 7,035 loans for $460 million went to homeowners and renters, while business owners received 530 loans for $55 million.
Knapik says just 15 percent of the owners who have registered with FEMA have returned applications for SBA loans, and she encourages all homeowners to apply while the opportunity to take advantage of the low-interest emergency loans still exists.
"We try to make up the difference for what insurance doesn't pay," Knapik said.
"People are hearing messages about grant money, and we think that's what they're waiting for," Knapik said.
But Knapik said applying for an SBA loan does not obligate a homeowner to accept the loan.
She said loan offers are typically made within 21 days of application — then owners have up to two months to respond. If an owner declines, the loan offer stands for another six months. If an owner then expresses a desire to renew the application, the owner would have another 60 days to respond. The process allows an owner up to 10 months to decide on whether to accept an SBA loan.
The application is the starting point for borrowing money for reconstruction, mitigation, relocation or refinancing.
The quickest way to apply is online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Additional details on the locations of recovery centers and the loan application process can be obtained by calling SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Loan applications can be downloaded from www.sba.gov/sandy.