Federal agencies extend deadlines for applying for hurricane aid

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel
By Joe Kollin

Published January 6, 2006


Good news for those who suffered damage during Hurricane Wilma in October and missed Thursday night's deadlines to apply for assistance.

The Small Business Administration is giving condominium and homeowner associations seven more days to apply for loans, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has extended until Jan. 19 the time individuals can apply for grants.
The SBA, aware that all federal agencies haven't been providing the same information to callers, will accept loan applications if they're accompanied by a letter of explanation," said Gus Fernandez, an Atlanta-based spokesman for the SBA. However, he offered no guarantee the application will be approved.

"The letter should indicate that they received the wrong information from another source and request consideration for their late presentation of the application," Fernandez said.

FEMA, meanwhile, extended its deadline because the agency wants to "make sure every Floridian has had the opportunity to apply and receive the assistance for which he or she is eligible," said Justin DeMello, FEMA's coordinating officer.

The SBA provides loans to businesses, including associations. FEMA provides grants to individuals, including unit owners.

Applications for SBA loans can be mailed to the SBA's Texas office at 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

The SBA has set a July 24 deadline for aid to offset the loss of business because of Wilma. Fernandez said that deadline is later because businesses need time to show the loss of revenue.

The SBA loans carry interest rates listed at 4 to 4.75 percent.

Although the SBA boasts of approving 588 loans worth $33.5 million in Florida for Wilma recovery, experts suggest condo and homeowner associations also apply to banks.

"Because you apply for an SBA loan doesn't mean you'll get it, so associations should still get conventional loans," said Tracey Schnaitman, president of VIP Property Management Specialists in Sunrise.

She also said "it could take [the SBA] 100 days to process the application, and if they reject it, you have to start all over, and meanwhile people's homes are leaking."

Many South Florida associations were rejected for FEMA aid because they are corporations and the agency doesn't help corporations. Florida Condo Ombudsman Virgil Rizzo last month convinced FEMA that only an association can repair some commonly owned property, such as the roof over 30-unit apartment building. FEMA then agreed to accept association loan applications and forward them to the SBA.

TYPE OF AID: Rental assistance, repair grants, small business loans, housing placement.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE: People who do not have insurance or whose losses are not completely covered by private insurance. Insurance deductibles are not covered.

IF YOU ARE NOT ELIGIBLE: Individuals and business owners who are ineligible for a FEMA grant may apply for a U.S. Small Business Administration loan to cover disaster-related losses.

HOW TO APPLY: To apply for a FEMA grant or SBA loan, visit  www.fema.gov

or call 800-621-3362.

FEMA changes policy, allows condo boards to seek hurricane aid