As of Friday afternoon, Feb. 14, just over 20 people had come to the DeSoto County Health Department building in Hernando seeking disaster assistance from the Small Business Administration, or SBA.
The Health Department, at 3212 Highway 51 South, is the place where representatives from the SBA and Mississippi Emergency Management Agency, or MEMA, had set up an office for those whose homes, residential or commercial property were damaged by the January tornadoes.
Those who suffered damage had until Tuesday, Feb. 25, to visit a representative in person and start the process of receiving loan interest loans for the repair and rebuild from the January storms, said Disaster Assistance Team representative Tamim Choudhury.
“We’re offering that live assistance where you could also make a phone call or go online,” said Choudhury. “Whatever we can answer on the spot, we can answer. If we don’t have the answer, we’ll pass it up the chain of command. We’ll get the answer for you.”
The SBA loan help came after Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves asked for and received from the Administration a disaster declaration for DeSoto County and its adjacent counties: Tunica, Tate and Marshall counties in Mississippi, Shelby County, Tennessee; and Crittenden County, Arkansas.
Choudhury is encouraging people in the affected areas to simply come and talk with the team members to learn what the SBA can offer for low-interest loans.
“If you’re a homeowner or a renter, just come,” Choudhury said. “You don’t have to bring anything. We prefer if you have identification, your home insurance policy, but that’s just preference. That’s not a requirement. You don’t have to have anything to actually have an application started.”
Businesses, nonprofits, and others with commercial property beyond homes will need to have additional information, however.
“If you’re a business owner, then I would ask you to bring in documents, such as your most recent tax returns, your schedule of liabilities, and your profit and loss statement if you have one,” he said. “I ask for these documents so I don’t waste your time and we can get started right away.”
Nonprofits should bring operating statements, a charter of bylaws, although as Choudhury said, “it’s best if you just come in first if you’re a business person or nonprofit manager,” he explained. “Come in and talk to us because then you have the whole gamut of things you need to bring in.”
The entire process to get an application underway should take about 30 minutes, Choudhury said.
The subsidized loan interest rate can be as low as 1.5 percent for homes or renters, 3.8 percent for businesses and 2.75 percent for nonprofits. The loan terms can be 15 or 30 years.
Even though the SBA disaster office will close on Feb. 25, disaster victims still will have time after that to apply for loans. They will simply have to either call or go online.
“Deadlines are April 6 for physical damages and Nov. 6 for economic injury,” Choudhury said. “By that, I mean that the state of the business or nonprofit is fine, but the tornado prevents the business from making payroll, or a financial loss. That’s where economic injury comes in.”
Once applications are received, a loan verification officer meets with the property owner on-site to determine the extent and value of the loss. It is the visit that determines the amount of loan money available.
“Loan limits are $200,000 for your home, $40,000 for your personal property and for renters, so a homeowner may be looking at $240,000,” Choudhury explained. “For nonprofits and businesses, the limit is $2 million.”
While not a grant or handout, SBA Disaster Loans are a low-cost, yet significant means of helping repair or rebuild that which was damaged or destroyed in the January storm that went through the county.
For more information about SBA Disaster Loan Assistance, call 800-659-2955 or visit www.sba.gov/disaster.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.