As Disaster Deadlines Approach, Leahy Warns That Vermonters May Be Leaving On The Table The Recovery Help That They Need

Leahy Concerned That Homeowners, Renters And Businesses Are Not Returning SBA Applications

(TUESDAY, Nov. 8) – U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy Tuesday cautioned Vermonters that Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and Small Business Administration (SBA) registration and application deadlines associated with Tropical Storm Irene now are only one week away (November 15).  Leahy urged Vermonters hurt by the storm to register with FEMA and submit SBA applications right away, even if they are unsure they need or plan to use the federal disaster recovery help.

“Vermonters have one shot at tapping federal recovery help in Irene’s aftermath, and it is about to pass many Vermonters by,” said Leahy.  “If you haven’t registered, register.  If you haven’t submitted your SBA loan application, submit it by next Tuesday.”

The SBA issues loan applications to all homeowners, renters and businesses who register with FEMA.

Leahy, who has been critical of the low number of SBA loans issued to Vermont businesses, noted that part of the problem is the low return of SBA applications from Vermont businesses.  As of late Sunday, of the 1826 SBA disaster business loan applications issued to affected businesses, only 219 have been returned.

Leahy said, “More than 1600 businesses hurt by Irene have either decided not to apply for an SBA disaster loan or may have put the application in a to-do pile and forgotten about it, given the immediate needs following the flooding.  But now is the time to get that application in, because a year from now I would hate to see any Vermonters regretting a decision to go it alone.”

Business owners who might benefit from assistance in completing their applications can either call the SBA directly at 800-659-2955, or they can get the advice of a counselor with the Vermont Small Business Development Center by calling (800) 464-SBDC. 

The SBA disaster loan program makes low-interest, long-term loans available to businesses, homeowners and renters harmed by disasters.  Leahy said he has heard from many Vermont businesses that they cannot afford more debt.  But Leahy urges even those business owners to submit applications, because SBA disaster loans have longer terms and lower rates than some commercially available products, making them affordable to more businesses.

Leahy noted that homeowners and renters are especially at risk of missing federal disaster benefits if they fail to return their SBA applications.  According to the SBA’s Carl Sherrill -- one of SBA’s on-the-ground disaster staffers in Vermont -- fewer than 20 percent of homeowners and renters who have registered with FEMA have returned the SBA application sent to them as part of the registration process.  Of the 4183 applications issued, only 789 have been returned.

Leahy noted that the nearly 3400 Vermont homeowners and renters who have not returned their applications may be missing out not only on low-interest loans, but also on additional grants.  Leahy was told by FEMA and SBA officials that some Vermonters may be ineligible for additional FEMA grants because they have failed to return their SBA loan applications, making FEMA unable to determine families’ additional needs.  FEMA and SBA stress that filling out an application does not obligate the applicant to accept a loan if offered.

Last week, SBA and FEMA partnered with Vermont NeighborWorks Organizations in an effort to help identify and assist homeowners and renters in filing their SBA applications.  For more information, homeowners and renters can identify and contact their closest NeighborWorks organization by calling 1-888-MYVTHOME (1-888-698-8466).

Leahy urges all Vermonters to pay attention to upcoming disaster registration and application deadlines.  In addition to the November 15th deadline for businesses, homeowners and renters impacted by Irene, Vermonters should also be aware of four more approaching deadlines:

November 15, 2011: FEMA deadline for municipalities and non-profits for public assistance.

November 18, 2011: U.S. Department of Agriculture/Natural Resources Conservation Service deadline for municipalities to apply for Emergency Watershed Protection Projects.

November 20, 2011: U. S. Department of Agriculture/Farm Service Agency deadline to apply for Non-Insured Crop Assistance Program (NAP) for coverage in case of future disasters. 

November 20, 2011: Application deadline for the Non-Insured Crop Assistance Program (NAP) on forage such as hay, and perennial crops such as strawberries and blueberries, for the 2012 production season.  The Farm Service Agency also strongly urges any Vermont farmer who suffered damage and losses due to Tropical Storm Irene to contact with their county USDA office if they have not already done so.

November 23, 2011: U.S.  Department of Agriculture/Farm Service Agency deadline to apply for cost share assistance through the Emergency Conservation Program for damage to farm land.

November 23, 2011: Deadline to apply for cost share assistance through the Emergency Conservation Program (ECP), for farmers and landowners whose land sustained damage to farm land.

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