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Lawrence County receives Small Business Administration Disaster Declaration

Residents and businesses in Lawrence and Scioto counties that were impacted by flash flooding July 21 may be eligible for low interest loans through a Small Business Administration Declaration for Lawrence County.

The declaration will see a Disaster Loan Outreach Center open up at the Workforce Development Resource Center at 120 N. Third St. in Ironton on Friday.

Applications will be accepted from residents of Lawrence and the contiguous Scioto, Jackson, and Gallia counties in Ohio; Boyd and Greenup counties in Kentucky; and Wayne and Cabell counties in West Virginia.

Home Disaster Loans, Business Physical Disaster Loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans will be available to qualified applicants.

Loans to homeowners or renters may be used to repair or replace flood damaged real estate or personal property owned by the applicant. Renters are eligible for their personal property losses, including automobiles if they quality.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) regulations limit home loans to $200,000 for the repair or replacement or real estate and $40,000 to repair or replace personal property.

Subject to these maximums, loan amounts cannot exceed the verified uninsured disaster loss.

Individuals and businesses will be able to apply for an SBA disaster loan at the Disaster Loan Outreach Center Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Monday through Thursday Aug. 9 -12 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.. Individuals and businesses may also apply for an SBA disaster loan by calling 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the hearing impaired) or by going online at www.sba.gov.

Damage was reported county-wide in Lawrence County. This enabled Lawrence County to meet the minimum 25 homes either destroyed or with major damage necessary for the SBA low interest loan programs, making disaster assistance available.

Those residents impacted by the event, including the immediate Franklin Furnace area in Scioto County, will be able to benefit from the Lawrence County declaration as well as residents in Kentucky and West Virginia counties just across the Ohio River.

The damage assessment criteria used in disasters has changed in the recent past. Assessments for federal government programs now categorizes homes with up to two (2) feet of water on the first floor living quarters as having minor damage; homes with two to five feet of water on the first floor living quarters as having major Damage; homes with over five (5) of water in the living quarters area or that have structural issues are considered destroyed.

Any amount of water in a basement up to a one (1) foot of water on the first floor is categorized as Affected.

SBA verified 33 homes assessed in Lawrence County as major or destroyed late last week. Scioto County only had five homes destroyed or with major damage but more than 20 homes with minor category type damage.

Both Kim Carver and Mike Boster, Directors for County EMA programs said the changes in damage assessment criteria are disheartening.

The directors said that to have received Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Declarations and help, those numbers would have had to have been substantially larger.

Changes took effect a couple of years ago at the federal level that has changed the level of damage necessary to obtain federal financial assistance through declarations.

What this means to Southern Ohio is that in the future it will be difficult or almost impossible to obtain FEMA declarations and outright grant programs to help families.

For families who live in the flood plain and do not have flood insurance, help is only available for what insurance would not have paid, or in other words the uninsured losses.

Both directors said they realize that two feet of water in a home is not minor to the family whose home is impacted, stating they realized how difficult it is in hard economic times to recover from a flood.

Local and state government is struggling in this sluggish economy and the federal government programs that used to help have changed.

Carver and Boster said that even in northern Ohio where three counties were ravaged by tornadoes and hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed there was not enough damage for a FEMA declaration.

They said Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland appealed the denial twice based on over $100 million in damages from the tornadoes up there, but the denial stood and residents there were left to recover on their own as well.