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FEMA plans to open disaster recovery center in Fairbanks

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Posted: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 8:03 am, Tue Jul 16, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — The Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Small Business Administration plan to open a disaster recovery center in Fairbanks Tuesday as a result of the 2013 spring floods.

The disaster center in Fairbanks will serve as a hub where affected individuals can receive assistance from FEMA and the SBA.

A disaster center is already open in Galena, but because not all homeowners might be able to make that trip, the Fairbanks center will help serve individuals further upriver, according to Cynthia Cowell, public information officer for the SBA.

“It’s kind of hard for us to open a disaster center in Tok or Fort Yukon just because of the logistics involved,” Cowell said.

As of Monday, Cowell was unsure where in Fairbanks the center would be located.

President Barack Obama declared a major disaster on June 25, following the Yukon River flooding. The president’s declaration covers the Alaska Gateway, Yukon Flats, Yukon-Koyukuk and the Lower Yukon school districts.

Individuals and businesses in the affected areas may be eligible for low-interest federal disaster loans from the SBA. The loans provided by the association are meant to help with the repair and replacement of damaged property and real estate.

The SBA also provides small businesses economic injury disaster loans to help counteract loss of business or capital as a result of the floods.

Limits on disaster loans for individuals are $200,000 for real estate and $40,000 for personal property. Businesses may apply to borrow as much as $2 million.

While individuals and businesses only in the listed areas are eligible for real estate and property loans, those in any of the contiguous areas may apply for economic injury assistance.

The SBA has already approved more than $300,000 in loans in the Galena area alone, according to Cowell. She said the SBA has issued 129 applications to affected homeowners so far, 64 of which have been completed and returned. The association has issued 33 applications for businesses.

Cowell said it’s important for those who have been referred to the SBA to return their applications.

“If you’re not approved ... in most cases we can send you back to FEMA for grant consideration,” Cowell said. “I know a lot of people say, ‘I don’t want a loan,’ but if they don’t complete their SBA applications then they are cutting themselves off from further government assistance.”

The deadline to apply for physical damage loans is Aug. 26, and the deadline for economic injury applications is March 25.

The difference in deadlines, according to Cowell, is because physical damage can usually be estimated fairly quickly following a disaster, whereas economic loss can take longer to realize.

“You don’t know until a season has passed,” Cowell said. “It’s not as obvious right away as with physical damage.”

To see if they’re eligible for low-interest federal disaster loans, homeowners and renters can register with FEMA, and businesses can register directly with the SBA by calling 1-800-659-2955 or going online at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela or visiting one of the disaster centers in Fairbanks and Galena.

Contact staff writer Wes Morrow at 459-7520.

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