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Help available for residents, businesses affected by Isaias

Suffolk businesses and residents affected by Tropical Storm Isaias and resulting tornadoes in early August can now apply for low-interest disaster loans from the United States Small Business Administration, the city announced Friday.

The loans were made available in response to a letter from Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam requesting a disaster declaration by the SBA covering the city of Suffolk and adjacent areas.

In accordance with health precautions for COVID-19, the SBA will not establish a field presence to assist survivors. However, the SBA will continue to provide customer service and conduct outreach virtually with webinars, Skype calls, phone assistance and step-by-step application assistance. The SBA has opened a Virtual Disaster Loan Outreach Center to  help  survivors  apply online using the Electronic Loan Application via the SBA’s secure website at DisasterLoanAssistance.sba.gov. Virtual customer support representatives are available to help applicants complete the online application from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day. Survivors can email FOCE-Help@sba.gov or call 1-800-659-2955.

The SBA will conduct extensive outreach to ensure that those affected by the disaster have an opportunity to apply for assistance.

“Businesses and private nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets,” said SBA’s Virginia District Director Carl Knoblock.

For small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations, the SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans 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.

“Loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for loans up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property,” said Michael Lampton, acting center director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East in Atlanta.

Applicants may be eligible for a loan amount increase up to 20% of their physical damages, as verified by the SBA for mitigation purposes. Eligible mitigation improvements may include a safe room or storm shelter, sump pump, French drain or retaining wall to help protect property and occupants from future damage caused by a similar disaster.

Interest rates are as low as 3% for businesses, 2.75% for nonprofit organizations, and 1.188% for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years. Loan amount and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application via the SBA’s secure website at DisasterLoanAssistance.sba.gov. Businesses and individuals may also obtain information and loan applications by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955 (1-800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing), or by emailing DisasterCustomerService@sba.gov. Loan applications can also be downloaded at www.sba.gov. Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

The filing deadline to return applications for physical property damage is Dec. 7, 2020. The deadline to return economic injury applications is July 7, 2021.

Additionally, the City of Suffolk Assessor’s Office would like to remind property owners that they may be eligible for a reduction in tax levies if buildings were razed, destroyed or damaged, and in mid-September sent letters and applications to affected property owners. The reduction in tax levies is allowable if destruction or damage is equal to or exceeds $500 in the value of the building.

Also, no reduction in tax levies is allowed unless the destruction or damage renders the building unfit for use and occupancy for 30 days or more during the calendar year.

Property owners may contact the Assessor’s Office at 757-514-7475, Monday through Friday, between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., for answers to questions and further assistance.

Also, the Suffolk Economic Development Authority is currently taking façade grant applications for commercial structures impacted by Tropical Storm Isaias. Commercial structures damaged during the storm are eligible to receive grants up to $5,000 to assist in repairs to the outside of the building. Business owners can contact Deanna Holt 514-4049 or dholt@suffolkva.us for more details and to make an application.