Homeowners and businesses affected by Hurricane Ike are weighing their options. The cost of disaster and the price to fix it are the hard, cold, facts of life for most here. When it comes to options there aren’t many. But there are some.

Insured or not it is worth taking a closer look at what the Small Business Administration offers. Low interest disaster loans aren’t just for businesses.

In Orange County the SBA has already administered $51,377,500 in financial assistance. Nearly all of it to homeowners. Businesses, so far, have accounted for just 5 percent of funds distributed. The average loan size among the 538 Orange County borrowers is $95,497. Renters and nonprofit organizations are eligible for SBA disaster loans too.

Homeowners can get up to $200,000 at 2.875-percent interest to repair or replace a damaged or destroyed primary residence. A renter can borrow up to $40,000 to replace personal property.

“In disasters SBA programs apply to almost everyone affected,” said Carl Sherrill, an SBA administrator at the new SBA Disaster Loan Outreach Center in Bridge City. “An SBA loan does not cut out other options. They do not affect insurance payments or grants.”

Sherrill will conduct an SBA seminar Saturday, Nov. 15, from 4 to 7 p.m., at Bridge City High School.

“In Bridge City we are a gateway for further assistance.” Sherrill said. The outreach center opened Monday and is located at the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce at 150 W. Roundbunch. 

According to Sherrill, borrowers have six month before beginning to pay back the loan. Businesses and nonprofit organizations can borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery, equipment and other assets including lost revenue. Interest on an SBA Business Disaster Loan is 4 percent.

For small businesses and most private, nonprofit organizations, SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans  to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. It is available regardless of whether the entity suffered any property damage. 

“We think in terms of length and quality of the recovery,” Sherrill said. SBA offers quick response time. Loans are usually executed and in the hand of the applicant within 6-10 days, he said. Insurance settlements do not affect a borrowers status for SBA assistance or vice versa.

The SBA can also lend additional funds for making property improvements, help meet new codes and prevent or minimize the same type of damage occurring in the future.

The SBA issued 16,130 packets to Orange County home and business owners requesting disaster loan applications. So far only 15.6 percent of homeowners have returned applications. The SBA has received just  6.7 percent from business owners.

Throughout the region hurt by Hurricane Ike the SBA has approved more than $234 million in disaster loans. The deadline to return applications for property damage is Dec. 12. The deadline to return economic injury applications is June 15, 2009.

The Orange County Disaster Outreach Center in Bridge City is staffed by Scott Lieberg of Corona, Ca. and Monica Vigo from Sacramento. Office hours are weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
There is no need to bring bids. An SBA loss verifier will visit the applicant’s location.

To contact the home loans service center call 1-800-736-6048. The business loans service center is 1-800-644-8564.