10/02/06 — Residents can get help with damages from Ernesto

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Residents can get help with damages from Ernesto

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 2, 2006 1:51 PM

Relief is now available for homeowners, businesses and even renters adversly impacted by August's Tropical Storm Ernesto.

The U.S. Small Business Administration declared Duplin and Jones counties to have been adversely affected by the storm, which dumped nearly a foot of rain on the region. Because Wayne, Carteret, Craven, Lenoir, Onslow, Pender and Sampson counties are contiguous to Duplin and Jones, those residents and business owners also are available for disaster relief.

"Disasters don't necessarily stay within county lines," said Kathy Cook, a spokeswoman for the SBA. "We assume there may be damage in contiguous counties that join the primary counties."

The declaration came in response to a request by Gov. Mike Easley earlier this month.

The decision was made after on-the-ground investigators found at least 25 homes and/or businesses with 40 percent or more uncompensated (uninsured) damage in each of the two primary counties.

Homeowners are available for up to $200,000 to repair or replace disaster-damaged real estate, as well as up to $40,000 to repair or replace disaster-damaged personal property. Renters only are available for the $40,000 for their personal property losses.

Non-farm businesses are available for up to $1.5 million to repair or replace business assets -- inventory, machinery, buildings, equipment, etc. -- that were damaged by the disaster.

And small businesses, regardless of their physical damage, might be eligible for economic injury disaster loans if they suffered economic losses due to the disaster. Such loans would provide funds to cover normal operating expenses such as bills.

"Everybody who applies for a physical loan is considered for economic injury," Cook said.

The deadline for physical loan applications is Nov. 24.

The deadline for economic injury loans, if there is no physical damage, is June 25.

"The amount of the loans depend on the verification of damage losses, less any amount of insurance received. If they haven't received any insurance yet, we encourage people to apply to us first and then pay off the loan with the insurance," Cook said.

Beginning today, the SBA will have two disaster loan outreach centers open to help people through the process.

One is in Duplin County at the Agriculture Building at 209 Seminary St., Kenansville. It will be open Monday through Friday,9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The other location is in Jones County at the Emergency Management Agency at 389 Highway 58 South, Trenton. It will be open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"These are temporary centers," Cook said. "I generally think it's easier if somebody explains (the loan process) face to face, so we encourage people to come and visit one of these centers."

If people are unable to travel to one of the centers, they can call 1-800-659-2955, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and have an application mailed to them.

"(The speed of the loans) is dependent on when the people get the paperwork back to us and if they execute it correctly," Cook said. "We process everything on a first-in, first-out basis."