The San Juan Daily Star
SBA encourages people affected by Hurricane Fiona to apply for low-interest loans
By Alejandra M. Jover Tovar
Special to The Star
Suppose you were one of the thousands of people who lost property or were affected by damages due to Hurricane Fiona. In that case, you could qualify for loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Florencio Marina, one of SBA’s public affairs specialists, said the loan applies “not only to businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit entities, but also to help homeowners and renters [who may lose property such as cars, clothes, furniture, etc.].”
There are six business recovery centers around the island, in Barranquitas, Fajardo, Ponce, Caguas, Mayagüez and Yabucoa. People can go directly to those centers and ask for help filling out the loan paperwork or call 1-800-659-2955 to learn about their options, Marina said. They can also visit disasterloanassistance.sba.gov/ela and should apply under SBA declaration #17640.
“People can initiate the process through the phone, and from there they can be told which center they can go to if they prefer,” she said. “We have bilingual officers.”
Marina encouraged people to apply, especially those referred to SBA by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“They don’t have to get the loan even if approved, but they’d still be in the federal application system,” she said. “Don’t disregard this loan out of ignorance.”
According to an SBA press release, “businesses and private nonprofit organizations of any size may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster-damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets.”
For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most private nonprofit organizations, “the SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster.”
“Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any physical property damage,” the press release said.
Homeowners, meanwhile, can access loans up to $200,000 to repair or replace disaster-damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace disaster-damaged or destroyed personal property.
The filing deadline for physical property damage applications is Nov. 21, 2022. The deadline to return economic injury applications is June 21, 2023.
Low interest rates and time to pay back
“In the case of homeowners and renters, the loan, which is not a normal private sector loan, is very low interest: 2.1% for homeowners, 3% for business owners, and 1.8% for nonprofit entities. For individuals who rent, the interest is 2.1%,” Marina pointed out. “Homeowners and renters can have up to 30 years to pay; businesses have seven years.”
Another advantage of this type of loan is that borrowers “don’t have to wait for their insurance [plan] to respond before borrowing, and they don’t have to start repaying within a year after the first disbursement,” she said.
It is worth noting that anyone who receives a loan should save their receipts for up to three years because SBA inspects the adequate use of disbursed funds.
“At the time of loan approval, you’re informed of that,” Marina said. “Inspections are made, and the loan must be used for the losses. Loans are granted when the need is verified.”