Those interested in applying for Small Business Administration low-interest rate loans can learn more by calling the SBA's Customer Service Center at 1-800-659-2955, or 1-800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Counties where help is available include the primary Alabama counties of DeKalb, Etowah, and contiguous counties of Blount, Calhoun, Cherokee, Jackson, Marshall and St. Clair; and contiguous counties of Chattooga, Dade and Walker in Georgia. More information, including SBA disaster loan fact sheets, can be found on the SBA's website at www.sba.gov. Serve Alabama, the Governor's Office of Faith-Based and Volunteer Service, encourages storm survivors in need of assistance to call 211, or 888-421-1266. Operators can provide more information on available recovery resources.
89: Structures destroyed
71: Structures with major damage
72: Structures with minor damage
297: Structures affected
529: Total storm-damaged structures countywide
Source: DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency
Victims of March 18's tornadoes and high winds in DeKalb County, Ala., and surrounding counties could be eligible for federal help after being approved recently for disaster assistance in the form of low-interest loans.
DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency director Anthony Clifton said county officials were happy with the approval for assistance through the U.S. Small Business Administration.
"The people it helps are those who are uninsured or underinsured, so that they are not getting hit with big interest," Clifton said this week. "SBA loans are at 1.6 percent interest. [Victims] can get things replaced without having to pay big interest, like on a credit card."
Clifton had said in late March that storm damage from straight-line winds in Fort Payne alone exceeded the $644,000 threshold for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance, but since those facilities were insured, they don't count toward the amount used to dole out financial aid.
Local and state officials estimate about 529 DeKalb County structures were damaged March 18 by high winds and two tornadoes.
Federal officials designated DeKalb and Etowah counties as the two primary counties listed in the SBA disaster declaration approved on Thursday, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley's office announced in a state news release. The declaration also covers counties contiguous to DeKalb and Etowah counties in Alabama and Georgia.
Gov. Bentley said federal aid is available for homeowners, businesses and nonprofit organizations that suffered damage from the storms.
"We appreciate the SBA's partnership, and we look forward to working with the SBA and our citizens as we recover from these storms," Alabama Emergency Management Agency director Art Faulkner said.
According to federal guidelines, home disaster loans are offered to renters and homeowners who can borrow up to $40,000 for repairs and replacement, and homeowners can apply for up to $200,000 to repair or replace their primary residences.
Business physical disaster loans up to $2 million are available for disaster-damaged property owned by the business, and all sizes of businesses, nonprofit organizations, churches and charities are eligible.
Economic injury disaster loans of up to $2 million are available inside the SBA-declared disaster area to small businesses or private, nonprofit organizations if the entity has suffered economic injury, regardless of physical damage.
Storm victims should keep an eye on the calendar, he said.
"Applications need to be in before June 3 for homeowners," Clifton said. "Businesses that are affected have until January of 2014 [to apply]."
Contact staff writer Ben Benton at email@example.com or 423-757-6569.