JACKSON , Tenn. -- Disaster officials in Tennessee are concerned that disaster victims who still need help may be closing the door on additional assistance for themselves and their families. In most cases, they say, it is simply because one piece of paperwork is missing: a disaster loan application from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
"This is more than just a loan application," said Michael Bolch, who heads FEMA's disaster operations in Tennesseee. "We look at that same paperwork when we consider applicants for additional cash grants. It's the only way applicants can qualify for either low-interest disaster loans from SBA or for any grants from FEMA beyond home repair or rental assistance."
The grant program, which FEMA refers to as Other Needs Assistance, is intended to help people who are declined an SBA loan, but who still have unmet needs not covered by insurance or volunteer agencies. SBA officials point out that returning the loan application does not obligate anyone to accept a disaster loan.
"This is the only paperwork in the whole application process," said Louis Friedmann, the deputy state coordinator for this disaster, "and it's important that applicants fill it out and return it to SBA. If they trash the packet, the process stops right there."
To make the process as easy as possible, the SBA has customer service specialists at its two disaster assistance centers in Trenton and Gallatin . The Trenton center is located at 200 East Eaton Street in the old Health Center Building . The center in Gallatin opens Monday, May 8, at the city Public Utility Building, 239 Hancock Street , where the state-federal disaster center was located. Both facilities will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. until further notice. The SBA also provides help for individual or business applicants by phone at 1-800-659-2955 .
FEMA manages federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates mitigation activities, works with state and local emergency managers, and manages the National Flood Insurance Program. FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 1, 2003.