SBA offers loans in Dumas

Storm victims in tornado-ravaged Desha County will be eligible for low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Administration. The disaster declaration comes after the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied a request for federal assistance for the area.

BY P.J. HELLER | DUMAS, Ark. | March 13, 2007



"This declaration precludes us from appealing FEMA's denial of emergency assistance, but these SBA loans will provide substantive and efficient means to get our people back on their feet."

—Gov. Mike Beebe


Storm victims in tornado-ravaged Desha County will be eligible for low-interest disaster loans from the Small Business Administration. The disaster declaration comes after the Federal Emergency Management Agency denied a request for federal assistance for the area.

"This declaration precludes us from appealing FEMA's denial of emergency assistance, but these SBA loans will provide substantive and efficient means to get our people back on their feet," Gov. Mike Beebe said.

The SBA opened a disaster loan outreach center Tuesday morning at the First United Methodist Church in the Desha County town of Dumas. Several dozen residents visited the center shortly after it was opened.

Under the SBA program, individuals and businesses can apply for loans to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate or personal property.

Homeowners can apply for loans of up to $200,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed property from the Feb. 24 tornadoes. Loans of up to $40,000 will be available to homeowners and renters to repair or replace personal property.

Businesses and non-profit organizations can apply for loans of up to $1.5 million to replace real estate, equipment and inventory that was damaged in the storm.

Economic Injury Disaster Loans will also be available for small businesses. Those loans are designed to help businesses meet capital needs caused by the storms, regardless of whether the business suffered property damage.

The deadline for filing applications for property damage loans is May 11. Economic Injury loan applications are due by Dec. 12.

In addition to Desha County, the loan program is available for other areas affected by the Feb. 24 storms. Those areas include Arkansas, Chicot, Drew, Lincoln and Phillips counties as well as Bolivar County in Mississippi.

The SBA office in Dumas will remain open as long as needed, an SBA spokesman said.

The Feb. 24 twister wiped out much of Dumas including 25 businesses, leaving upwards of 800 people without jobs. At least 100 homes and mobile homes were damaged or destroyed and more than two dozen people were injured. No deaths were reported.

Beebe had asked FEMA for federal disaster assistance but the request was later denied. The denial, coupled with the nearly two weeks it took for FEMA to respond to the request, sparked outrage among elected officials and residents.

"It really galled me to see the director of FEMA with the president in Alabama and Georgia holding hands, singing 'Kumbaya' and talking about the new and improved FEMA," said U.S. Rep. Mike Ross, whose district includes the Desha County town of Dumas. "The new and improved FEMA has forgotten this Delta county."

"This new FEMA is not what it's supposed to be or not what they say it is," added Glendon Lambert, a deacon at the First Baptist Church of Dumas. "I'm very disappointed with the federal government."

FEMA, through the General Services Administration, agreed to send 37 mobile homes and travel trailers -- originally purchased for Hurricane Katrina relief but among thousands that have never been used -- to the Dumas area to provide temporary housing for displaced residents.

FEMA said it was prohibited from directly donating the mobile homes without a major disaster declaration, prompting it to make the units available through arrangements with the GSA.


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