Disaster loan center opens in LaGrange for March tornado

Published 7:11 pm Friday, July 7, 2023

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Three months after the March 26 tornado that ravaged a community near West Point, Gov. Brian Kemp has requested an emergency declaration from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Kemp formally requested the disaster declaration in a letter dated June 26. The declaration will allow businesses and residents in the declared area to apply for low-interest disaster loans from the SBA.

SBA opened a Disaster Loan Outreach Center (DLOC) on Friday at the Troup Baptist Association on Washington Street in LaGrange. The DLOC will serve business owners, non-profits, homeowners and renters who were affected by the storm that occurred March 25-27.

The disaster declaration includes damages caused by severe storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes and flooding.

SBA Public Affairs Specialist Courtney Smith said the emergency declaration was likely delayed to wait to see if a federal declaration would be made. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denied the State of Georgia’s request for a major disaster declaration regarding the storms.

Smith said they typically wait until the federal declaration is made because they can provide grants rather than loans.

With the emergency declaration, SBA can provide disaster loans of up to $200,000 for homeowners to repair or replace disaster-damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace disaster-damaged or destroyed personal property, which includes vehicles damaged by the storm.

Businesses are also eligible to apply for up to $2 million in physical damages and $2 million in economic injury loans.

Business owners that apply for a physical disaster loan are automatically considered for the economic injury loans, Smith said.

The SBA disaster loan interest rates are as low as 4 percent for businesses, 2.375 percent for nonprofit organizations and 2.375 percent for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years. Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition. Payments on the loans can be differed for up to six months.

Troup is considered the primary county for the declaration, but it also covers adjacent counties of Coweta, Harris, Heard, Meriwether in Georgia; and Chambers and Randolph in Alabama.

“I encourage anyone who has not applied for a disaster loan to visit the center for one-on-one assistance. Our team is on the ground to help,” said Kem Fleming, director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East in Atlanta.

The DLOC will be open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The center will permanently close on Friday, July 21.