10/11/06 — SBA closing flood claims office

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SBA closing flood claims office

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on October 11, 2006 1:48 PM

With more than 90 claims filed in the last two weeks, the U.S. Small Business Administration has decided it's time to close its temporary offices in Duplin and Jones counties.

"We stay open as long as needed," said Michael Lampkin, communications director for SBA Field Operations East. "We talked with state and local officials, and we decided there was no need to stay any longer."

The offices were opened after Duplin and Jones counties were declared by the Small Business Administration to have been adversely affected by Tropical Storm Ernesto in August. The declaration allows homeowners, renters and business owners the opportunity to apply for low-interest loans to help pay for damages not covered by insurance.

Because Wayne, Carteret, Craven, Lenoir, Onslow, Pender and Sampson counties are contiguous to Duplin and Jones, those residents and business owners suffering damages also are eligible for disaster relief.

After the declaration, Lampkin explained, the majority of the requests came within the first few days the offices were open. Now, they have trickled off.

"That's pretty typical," he said. "We don't remain in the facilities unless people are actually coming there to see us, and for the last few days, the numbers have been minimal at best.

"Those individuals who want SBA assistance have, in large part, already contacted us - either called or come in."

However, just because the temporary offices are closing Thursday doesn't mean homeowners, business owners and renters cannot still file for the low-interest loans.

Residents can call 1-800-659-2955, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., to have an application mailed to them.

Homeowners are eligible 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 eligible for the $40,000 for their personal property losses.

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

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

So far, 75 of the requests have involved homes, 14 have been from businesses -- two just for economic injuries -- and one was from a non-profit.

No dollar amount has been assessed on the requests because SBA officials have not yet gone out to investigate claims and insurance coverages have not been calculated.

The deadline for filing physical damage claims is Nov. 24.

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

The Duplin County temporary office is at the Agriculture Building at 209 Seminary St., Kenansville. It will be open today and Thursday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The other office is in Jones County at the Emergency Management Agency at 389 Highway 58 South, Trenton. It will be open today and Thursday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.