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FEMA, Small Business Administration Arrive to Help St. Croix

Nov. 4, 2008 — Two federal agencies — the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration — have opened offices on St. Croix to provide assistance in the wake of Hurricane Omar.
FEMA is working with the V.I. Territorial Emergency Management Agency (VITEMA) to provide assistance to public agencies, including governments and non-profit agencies that work with governments, according to Phyllis Deroian, the FEMA public information officer.
The FEMA Hurricane Omar Public Assistance Program will open this week with applicants' briefings and meetings on both St. Croix and St. Thomas. The St. Croix meeting will begin at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Florence Williams Library in Christiansted. On St. Thomas, the meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Friday in the Department of Human Services Sugar Estate Complex Conference Room.
These briefings, which are open to government and public agencies as well as certain private non-profit organizations, are to provide information on and take applications for the disaster assistance available under the FEMA Public Assistance Program.
There has been some confusion about the aid FEMA will provide, Deroian said. Because of the nature of the declaration of disaster, FEMA is authorized only to work with governments and non-profit agencies that work with them, not individuals.
"The people need to go to SBA," Deroian said. "We're not involved with individuals at all."
The Small Business Administration will begin taking applications for recovery loans beginning Wednesday. The agency is opening a Disaster Loan Outreach Center at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Florence Williams Public Library at 1122 King Street in Christiansted. The center will open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturdays. The deadline to apply for a physical disaster loan is Dec.15. Application deadline for the economic injury disaster loan is July 31.
The SBA offers loans of up to $200,000 to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters also are eligible for loans up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property. Mitigation loans are also being offered to disaster victims based on 20 percent of the verified physical damage. These funds are designed to help borrowers pay for protective measures to minimize damages of the same kind in the future.
Businesses and non-profit organizations of any size can borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets.
Interest rates are as low as 2.875 percent for homeowners and renters and 4 percent for businesses, with terms up to 30 years, according to the SBA. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant's financial condition.
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