(Dec. 14, 2012) Lower Shore residents whose property was damaged during Hurricane Sandy continue to wait, and hope, for federal assistance.
In the meantime, some may want to apply for disaster assistance relief through the Small Business Administration. Individuals with damage to their property or belongings may apply to the Small Business Administration for a low interest disaster relief loan. The SBA scheduled a meeting at the fire hall in Crisfield on Thursday, yesterday, for property owners in Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties.
According to the Small Business Administration Web site at www.sba.gov, it is the primary source of federal funds for long-term recovery assistance.
Homeowners can receive loans up to $200,000 for repairs or replacement of homes and up to $40,000 for personal property. The interest rate for those loans, which are for up to 30 years, are as low as 1.688 percent for homeowners and renters.
“Oh, wow,” exclaimed Charlotte Litsinger when she heard about the loans Wednesday. “This might work. I’ll follow up on it and see what happens.”
Litsinger, who had been hoping to get assistance from FEMA, was one of the Ocean City residents whose home sustained major damage. Her bayside mobile home at Warren’s Park on 52nd Street has been uninhabitable since Sandy literally swept inside on Oct. 29. The storm left behind sludge and wetness, mold and musty odors, and ruined many of her belongings and furnishings.
Litsinger has been staying elsewhere and has been unsure of what steps to take to recover from the disaster. Now, at least, she has a glimmer of hope if FEMA assistance for individuals is not granted.
Non-farm businesses and non-profit organizations may also apply for up to $2 million from the Small Business Administration to repair or replace damaged property, equipment, furniture, fixtures and inventory.
Also, small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, non-profit organizations and most non-profit organizations, of all sizes, that were or were not physically damaged, but which sustained economic losses because of Sandy might also be eligible for the Small Business Administration’s economic injury disaster loans.
The Small Business Administration interest rates for loans are 3 percent for nonprofits and 4 percent for businesses. The loans are limited by law to restoring a home or business to its pre-disaster condition.
Gov. Martin O’Malley continues to gather information about the extent of damage caused by Sandy. He has 30 days to appeal FEMA’s decision.
To help, U.S. Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Ben Cardin sent a letter last Friday to Shaun Donovan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and Craig Fugate, FEMA’s administrator, urging them to cut through the red tape.
Earlier last week, Mikulski and Cardin participated in the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security hearing, “Hurricane Sandy: Response and Recovery – Progress and Challenges” where they called for immediate action on support for the Lower Shore. Donovan and Fugate also testified at that hearing. Sen. Jim Mathias has also pressed for FEMA to grant individual assistance.
FEMA approved federal funds for state and local governments and certain non-profits. The agency, however, denied individual assistance for Worcester, Somerset and Dorchester counties on Monday, Dec. 3, because, it said, there was not enough significant damage to private property there, although according to the FEMA Web site at www.fema.gov, there is no specific threshold for individual assistance. Another reason for individual assistance to be denied is that local resources might be sufficient to provide the assistance, but the Lower Shore counties are among the state’s poorest.
In those counties seeking individual assistance, some areas were being re-assessed to obtain more precise damage estimates and homeowners, renters and business owners were being urged to contact county emergency managers to report any damage caused by Hurricane Sandy that was not covered by existing insurance policies.
The unofficial storm damage estimate for public assistance, which is for public infrastructure such as debris management, roads and bridges, utilities, buildings and equipment, throughout all of Worcester County is approximately $1.18 million, according to Kim Moses, the county’s public information officer. County officials, however, were still waiting, as of Tuesday, for estimates from the Board of Education, Assateague Island National Seashore, the county Health Department and the county Department of Social Services.
The threshold for the county to receive the public assistance was $175,000 and that amount was quickly surpassed, Moses said.
Moses had no dollar amount for the damage to residences and businesses in the county. That was still being determined, she said.