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On the Road To Recovery

Disaster workshop open at Lee Center.

Small business owners and individual residents from throughout the Alexandria/Mount Vernon area began arriving at the Nannie J. Lee Recreation Center last week to receive aid from the devastation of Hurricane Isabel.

There to help were representatives of the Small Business Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross. As of late last week, officials had assisted approximately 50 people, according to Jody Lowery, loan officer with the SBA.

Established as an SBA Disaster Workshop at the center, located at 1108 Jefferson Street, representatives are providing assistance in securing loans and grants so that victim's homes and businesses become "safe, sanitary, and secure," Lowery explained. "Individual homeowners are asked to go to FEMA first," she noted.

"The SBA Disaster Program is entirely different from the regular SBA business development program," Lowery explained. The primary difference between the FEMA and SBA programs in a disaster situation is that FEMA "only gives grants" while SBA provides loans at low interest rates.

"Of the 50 people we've seen so far, most were business people from Old Town," Lowery said. Assistance has been available from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. throughout the week.

BUSINESS DISASTER Loans cover uninsured or otherwise uncompensated losses. Interest rates can be as low as 3.1 percent with terms extending up to 30 years. SBA loans are available to all businesses of whatever size.

Non-profit organizations can receive loans up to $1.5 million to repair disaster-damaged real estate, machinery, equipment and inventory, according to SBA. Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) are also available to eligible small businesses to provided needed working capital.

Homeowner loans are available from SBA up to $200,000 to repair disaster-damaged primary residences. Both homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to replace personal property. Interest rates for homeowners can be as low as 2.56 percent.

In addition to assistance available at Lee Center, Perry Pedini, Regional SBA Disaster Office, said, "SBA will do all they can to assist businesses affected by the hurricane. If anyone is unable to visit the workshop we will send someone from SBA to the business."

FEMA SUPPLIES GRANTS, as opposed to loans, for individual and family assistance. Individuals and businesses need to call FEMA at 1-800-621-FEMA (3362) to register before going to the Loan Disaster Workshop, according to FEMA representatives.

For those with speech and hearing impairment, the number is 1-800-462-7585. Additional information is available on the FEMA website at www.fema.gov.

When calling FEMA, applicants need to have the following information available:

*Phone number where FEMA can reach the applicant,

*Social Security number,

*Current Mailing address,

*Address of the affected property,

*Brief description of damages, and

*Insurance information including policy number.

Also present at the workshop was a representative of the American Red Cross. The Red Cross can be reached at their regional number: 1-866-435-4636.

SBA's hurricane relief is under the aegis of the Disaster Area 1 Office located in Niagara Falls, N.Y. Phone: 1-800-659-2955. They have established two deadlines for submission of aid applications:

November 17, 2003, for physical damage to homes, personal property, and businesses and June 18, 2004, for economic injury.

The Alexandria Small Business Development Center (SBDC) will help business owners complete their disaster loan applications and connect to additional resources, according to Bill Reagan, director. SBDC can be reached at 703-778-1292.