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Claremont sustained more than $6 million in damage from an Oct. 26 tornado that barreled through the city.
The more than 110-mph tornado caused severe damage in the city's Catawba Street, and residents spent days clearing yards, homes and businesses from debris and other damage. No one was injured, but residents were left with leaking roofs, toppled trees and destroyed property.
The Small Business Association is offering low-interest loans to tornado victims who don't have insurance or who need additional financial help to recover property or revenue lost from the storm.
"The SBA is strongly committed to providing the people of North Carolina with the most effective and customer-friendly response possible to assist homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes with the federal disaster loans," said Karen G. Mills, SBA administrator. "Getting businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is our highest priority."
Residents and businesses affected by the tornadoes that touched down Oct. 26 in several North Carolina counties can apply for the low-interest disaster loans from the SBA. Gov. Bev Perdue wrote a letter to the SBA requesting a disaster declaration after tornado damage devastated several communities in the state. The SBA made the loans available as a result of the disaster declaration, which includes Burke, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln and Mecklenburg counties.
"This (loan program) was released to Claremont, and it's another avenue for citizens to help repair damage from the tornadoes," said Claremont City Manager Doug Barrick. "The city can't repair everyone's homes, and this is a way for people to get the help they need."
Several types of disaster loans are available, including home disaster loans, business physical disaster loans and economic injury disaster loans. Mitigation loans are also available, which allow people approved for loans to receive additional funding for improvements to protect their property against future damage. These improvements can include retaining walls, sump pumps or seawalls.
Interest rates and loan terms are dependent on an applicant's access to credit elsewhere. Eligible applicants must have an acceptable credit history and prove their ability to repay the loan, Barrick said.
The SBA is an independent agency of the federal government helping to protect, assist and aid small businesses and their owners in the United States, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Guam. According to its website, the SBA supported more than $29.6 billion in small business lending as of Sept. 24.
Barrick said the loans' low interest rates make them attractive to many home and business owners, especially in tough economic times, when obtaining loans is often difficult.
Home or business owners with insurance can apply for the loans to help cover any additional expenses for improvement or repair not provided by an insurance policy, Barrick said.
Interest rates start at 2.25 percent for homeowners and renters, 3 percent for nonprofit organizations and 4 percent for businesses, with loan terms up to 30 years.
"Businesses and non-profit organizations of any size may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets," said Lynn Douthett, SBA's North Carolina district director.
Lee Wills, who lives in a rented home on the corner of Lookout and Catawba streets, said he hasn't had to pay any money for repairs to the house.
"It's just a mess," Wills said. "It's not really that bad. No money out of my pocket."
Wills' landlord had insurance to pay for repairs to the house, including a new roof and tree removal. The property had several trees toppled during the storm.
Wills' property wasn't the only house to lose trees in the storm. Skeleton trees are scattered throughout Claremont, where crews cut back limbs from damaged property. Several homes along Catawba Street have signs in their yards announcing repair or placement of their roofs.
The deadline to return applications for physical property damage is Jan. 18, and the deadline for economic injury applications is Aug. 17.
Residents and businesses interested in applying for the loans can contact the SBA's Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The application is also available online at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.