SBA office to help with Sockeye Fire loans

WILLOW — Residents affected by the Sockeye fire have until Thursday to file applications for loans from the US Small Business Administration in person.

While the on-site loan center at Ambulance Station 12-3 will close Sept 10, potential applicants can still apply online until Oct. 26 for physical damage loans, or until May 26, 2016 for economic injury loans. Those affected by the disaster can obtain a regular mail application package by calling 1-800-659-2955.

The administration grants below-market-interest-rate loans to for-profit businesses, non-profit organizations like churches and charities, and homeowners and renters. The SBA is asking anyone and everyone who might be eligible to apply, because it’s better to have a loan and not need it than to need a loan and not have it, said SBA public information officer Cynthia Cowell.

“I like to tell everyone that had any kind of fire damage to be sure to apply, even if you don’t want a loan right now,” she said. “You don’t have to take it.”

However, the fall deadline means the loan can be available later if needed. Cowell gave a hypothetical example in which a cold snap on Halloween revealed damage sustained to a septic tank over the course of the fire. Homeowners and business have up to a year after the acceptance date to access the funds, Cowell said.

Business loans can cover up to $2 million in a combination of direct damages and economic impact loans. In the event that the business is a major employer, the SBA can waive the limit and loan more. The economic impact loans can be granted even if the business’s physical property survived the fire unscathed.

“That’s for a business that may or may not have any damage from the fires, but they’re losing their business,” she said. “People have cancelled reservations. They hear about fires, and this is the prime money-making time for most small businesses up there.”

Home loans max out at $200,000 to repair real estate and $40,000 to replace personal property, including furniture.

Any loan offered must meet the verified uninsured property loss as a result of the fire. Second homes, and personal pleasure boats, cars, and recreational vehicles aren’t eligible unless used for business purposes. Loans can’t cover the sentimental value of objects, and loans for landscaping and swimming pools are limited.

In order to qualify for the SBA’s loans, with interest rates as low as 1.6888 percent, and terms as long as 30 years, homeowners must have an acceptable credit history, have the ability to repay the loans, and collateral for loans over $14,000. They also have to demonstrate that they can’t get a comparable lone from, say, a local bank. Interest rates for businesses with other available credit are much higher, about 6 percent. The SBA is also willing to work with homeowners to establish collateral within the means of loan applicants, Cowell said.

The SBA can also help to refinance existing home mortgages at the disaster rates, Cowell said.

“If your home was more than 50 percent damaged, substantially damaged, and you have an existing mortgage, we may be able to help with that, too,” she said.

The loan center is located at 24927 West Willow Creek Parkway, and open 9 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday.

Contact Reporter Brian O’Connor at 352-2270,, or on Twitter @reporterbriano.

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