SNOW HILL — Residents still aching from Hurricane Sandy-related damage are being urged to look into loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
SBA representative Karen Knapik went before the Worcester County Commissioners on Wednesday requesting help in getting the word out about the loans, which she said have been under-applied for so far.
Worcester avoided some of the epic damage seen in areas like New Jersey and New York, but there were still cases of substantial flooding and wind damage, especially in low-lying areas. Knapik, who has spent the last two weeks visiting various counties on Delmarva, told the commission there are properties in the county that should take advantage of SBA loans.
“Everybody’s situation is different,” she said. “I think some folks need the money.”
Even people who feel confident in approaching repairs with just insurance money might want to consider applying for a loan, since unexpected costs can derail any project, added Knapik.
“You never know what you’re going to get into when you start these repairs,” she said.
Knapik did stress to the commission that this money isn’t a handout, just a loan with a low interest rate.
“They are loans and that is one of the challenges that I seem to be coming across as I talk to the folks that are around here,” she said. “You do have to be able to pay them back and you do have to be credit worthy.”
The idea of applying for a loan to deal with any lingering storm damage can be intimidating, admitted Knapik, but she stressed that what SBA offers is unique in that large amounts of money can be obtained at lower rates than are usually available for private individuals or even organizations.
“Loans are kind of a scary thing, though our rates are very, very good,” she said. “For homeowners and renters, we offer loans as low as 1.68 percent for up to 30 years of re-payment; for renters up to $40,000, for homeowners up to $200,000 and for businesses and private non-profits up to $2 million. Rates are a little bit higher for them, 3 or 4 percent but this is money you really can’t get at these rates other places.”
So far, Knapik told the commission that about 100 applications for SBA loans have been distributed, with only 10 or so being completed and returned. This is a much lower percentage than the organization hopes to see and Knapik chalked it up to people not understanding the exact dimensions of the loans.
“It’s almost as if I need to do a one-on-one with folks,” she said.
Applying for any loan can be a scary process, continued Knapik, but with SBA the application is only a few pages. And even if someone is rejected in their application, she explained that the SBA can still refer them back to FEMA. While FEMA did not declare Maryland an emergency area after Sandy, state representatives have been pushing for further federal aid and Knapik told the commission that the SBA is “hopeful and expectant” of some kind of additional word from FEMA this month.
Commissioner Judy Boggs thanked Knapik for her willingness to work one-on-one with people as well as the SBA’s attempts to use civic infrastructure already in place to get the word out about loans.
“I agree with you that working through the chambers [of commerce] is a good idea,” said Boggs.
SBA announced yesterday it will open a disaster loan outreach center at the Ocean Pines Library beginning today, from 9 a.m.-6 p.m., and it will operate on Jan. 5 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and continue Jan. 7-10 from 9 a.m.-6 p.m.