Jackson, MS -- Mississippi disaster-aid applicants who are not eligible for a low-interest loan from the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA) may be eligible for a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the State of Mississippi.
The grant program provides a safety net for people who have exhausted all other means of assistance and still have financial obligations resulting from the April 6th through 25th severe storms, tornadoes and flooding. Unlike loans, the grants do not have to be repaid.
The grant program is one of the many assistance programs triggered by the major disaster declaration President Bush issued on April 24, at the request of Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.
The 30 Mississippi counties declared disaster areas are: Amite, Attala, Claiborne, Clarke, Copiah, Franklin, Hinds, Holmes, Issaquena, Jasper, Jefferson, Kemper, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Leake, Lincoln, Madison, Marion, Neshoba, Newton, Pearl River, Pike, Rankin, Scott, Simpson, Smith, Walthall, Warren, Wayne and Yazoo.
Grants may be used to cover such disaster-related expenses as essential home repairs, replacement of personal property, transportation, or the rental of equipment. Grants may also be used for items not normally covered under the SBA disaster loan program, such as medical and dental bills, funeral expenses and disaster debris removal.
To be eligible, an applicant must make initial contact with FEMA by calling their toll-free application hotline, 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). The speech or hearing impaired should call TTY 1-800-462-7585. Applicants who receive an SBA loan application should complete the forms even if they don't want an SBA loan and return them as quickly as possible. In some cases, depending upon the applicant's financial situation, referral to the grant program is made immediately.
"The quicker people complete and return the loan applications, the sooner financial assistance can be provided," said Leon Shaifer, the state official in charge of long-term recovery. "Applicants should file regardless of pending insurance settlements, which can take longer than a loan. There are no penalties for early repayment of SBA loans."
Under the SBA program, loans of up to $200,000 are available to repair disaster-damaged primary residences. Homeowners and renters also may apply for loans up to $40,000 to replace personal property such as furniture, automobiles, clothing and other household fixtures.
Loans to businesses and non-profit organizations of up to $1.5 million are available to repair damage to real estate, machinery and equipment, and inventory. Economic Injury Loans (working capital) are available to small businesses unable to pay bills or meet expenses because of the disaster.
SBA loans may include amounts for "mitigation techniques" designed to lessen the impact of wind, flood and earthquake damage when a natural disaster strikes. These techniques can range from building a levee to raising a house.
"Filing an application in no way obligates an applicant to accept a loan. However, anyone who sustained losses because of the April 6th through 25th severe storms, tornadoes and flooding should apply with FEMA as soon as possible to begin the process of getting disaster assistance," added Carlos Mitchell, the federal official in charge of disaster recovery.
Persons who need additional information regarding the SBA loan program or other disaster assistance programs are urged to call FEMA's toll-free Helpline at 1-800-621-3362. The speech or hearing impaired should call the TTY Helpline at 1-800-462-7585.