If you suffered damage from floods, tornadoes, landslides or mudslides between April 2-17, Tracy "Ray" Harbour has a message for you: Don't be hesitant to apply for federal disaster assistance.
Harbour, a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Small Business Administration, said disaster assistance is available through loans from SBA and grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Furthermore, SBA loans are not only for businesses but for homeowners and renters as well.
SBA offers disaster loans as low as 1.8 percent for homeowners and renters and 4 percent for businesses.
"Primary" counties like Bath, Bourbon, Carter, Elliott, Franklin, Jefferson, Lawrence, Madison, Rowan and Scott are eligible for both physical-damage loans and "economic injury" or working-capital loans from SBA.
A physical damage loan is for damage to a primary residence or business, or to personal property owned by a renter.
A working capital loan is for a business whose "customer base has been impacted, and you're not seeing as much business," Harbour said. "You may not have had any physical damage, but maybe the road going (to your business) has been impacted. For whatever reason, you're eligible to apply for the working-capital loan program."
Meanwhile, only working-capital loans are available to other counties adjacent to the "primary" counties. In the Herald-Leader coverage area, those counties are Boyd, Clark, Estill, Fayette, Fleming, Garrard, Grant, Greenup, Hardin, Harrison, Jackson, Jessamine, Johnson, Lewis, Martin, Menifee, Montgomery, Morgan, Nicholas, Owen, Rockcastle, Shelby, Spencer and Woodford.
The deadline to return applications for physical property damage is June 30. The deadline to return economic-injury applications is Feb. 1, 2016. "It can take months to learn what the impact is, so we give a longer deadline," Harbour said.
As of Thursday morning, 590 homeowners and 98 businesses had applied for FEMA assistance. The SBA has received 77 home applications and three business applications.
There are several reasons to submit a completed disaster-loan application, Harbour said.
First, a future insurance settlement may fall short for one reason or another.
"It happens commonly that you and your insurance do not see eye to eye, and you may not have replacement cost," Harbour said. "You can go ahead and apply while you're negotiating with your insurance company."
By submitting a disaster-loan application, you may have loan money available when it is needed. The loan balance will be reduced by your insurance settlement. However, the opportunity for an SBA disaster loan is lost if you wait until after the application deadline.
Second, SBA can help renters repair or replace personal property damaged by a disaster. Renters as well as homeowners may borrow to repair or replace clothing, furniture, appliances and damaged vehicles.
Third, by submitting an SBA loan application, you keep the full range of disaster assistance available as an option.
When you register for assistance, "you go through the FEMA grant program," Harbour said. "FEMA is going to refer you to the SBA for the loan program. If SBA is unable to approve you for the loan program, you'll be referred back to FEMA for additional grant programs that you may be eligible for.
"If you don't apply for the SBA loans, you've opted out of the chain for federal disaster assistance," Harbour said.
On the other hand, Harbour said, "If you're not sure what you want to do — it's an overwhelming and emotional time — you can go ahead and apply. And if you're approved, you can put that loan on hold and you have six months to reactivate it. My advice to anybody is give yourself as many options as you can."
If online or mobile access is unavailable, applicants should call the FEMA toll-free Helpline at 1-800-621-3362.
Those who use 711-Relay or Video Relay Services should call 1-800-621-3362.
Additional details on the locations of Disaster Recovery Centers and the loan application process can be obtained by calling the SBA Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 or by sending an email to email@example.com.