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Staff photo by Troy Stolt / Lisa Cowan's home in Holly Hills neighborhood is seen damaged by Sunday's tornado on Wednesday, April 15, 2020 in East Brainerd, Tenn.

More than $5 million of federal disaster loans have been granted to those who suffered losses when a series of tornadoes swept through Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia on April 12-13.

The U.S. Small Business Administration said it has approved 99 disaster loans for affected survivors so far in the Chattanooga region and the agency is encouraging others who suffered storm damages to apply for the low-interest loans before the June 23 deadline.

"Our mission is to help businesses and residents rebuild and resume their normal lives as quickly as possible," said Kem Fleming, director of SBA's Field Operations Center East in Atlanta.

The tornadoes and storms that struck the region Easter night on April 12, and April 13, claimed the lives of four Tennesseans, left 85,000 without power and damaged 2,817 properties, including 254 buildings that were destroyed, according to damage assessments prepared for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Another seven lives were lost in Murray County, Georgia and hundreds of Georgia buildings were also damaged or toppled by the storms.,

The disaster declaration made by Gov. Bill Lee in April covers Bradley and Hamilton counties in Tennessee which are eligible for both physical and economic injury disaster loans from the SBA.

Businesses and private nonprofit organizations of any size may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets. Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible up to $40,000 to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed personal property.

Interest rates are as low as 3.75 percent for businesses, 2.75 percent for nonprofit organizations and 1.563 percent for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years.

To be considered for all forms of disaster assistance, applicants should register online at DisasterAssistance.gov or download the FEMA mobile app. Applicants also may call the FEMA toll-free helpline at 800-621-3362 or (TTY) 800-462-7585.

FEMA is also providing reimbursements of up to 75% for government costs to repair or cleanup the storm damages. Amy Maxwell, director of public relations for the Hamilton County Office of Emergency Management, said the final tally of storm damages is still being compiled, although earlier estimates put the damages at more than $200 million and EPB estimates its power and telecommunications network suffered over $30 million of damages.

FEMA reimbursements could take up to two years to fully recover, Maxwell said.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepres.com or at 757-6340

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