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Disaster loans available for Eastern Washington residents impacted by wildfires

After FEMA denied individual assistance to Malden and Pine City residents, SBA is offering low-interest loans for homeowners and businesses.
Credit: KREM

SPOKANE, Wash — The Small Business Administration announced on Tuesday that it is offering low-interest federal disaster loans to Washington businesses and residents affected by wildfires in September 2020.

The devastating wildfires burned hundreds of thousands of acres across Eastern Washington. More than 85% of all buildings in Malden and Pine City, located in rural Whitman County, burned to the ground in the Babb Road Fire. Residents have not been able to clean up or rebuild since the wildfire sparked on Labor Day in 2020. 

SBA acted under its own authority to declare a disaster following the Federal Emergency Management's denial of individual assistance on Friday, Feb. 5 to those impacted by the Babb Road Fire, according to a press release. In a letter, FEMA said it determined that the impact to individuals and households from the fire "was not of such severity and magnitude to warrant the designation of Individual Assistance."

RELATED: FEMA: Babb Road Fire impact wasn't severe enough to warrant individual assistance

President Joe Biden granted a request for a Major Disaster Declaration on Thursday, Feb. 4, triggering the release of funding from FEMA to provide disaster relief for nine counties — including Whitman — and two tribes in Eastern Washington that were affected by the wildfires. This financial assistance will help rebuild public infrastructure that suffered damage, including power lines, roads, and water and sewage systems.

RELATED: Malden, Pine City communities voice frustration with recovery efforts

The disaster declaration from SBA makes assistance available in Adams, Asotin, Columbia, Franklin, Garfield, Lincoln, Spokane and Whitman counties in Washington, along with Benewah, Latah and Nez Perce counties in Idaho.

Businesses of all sizes and private nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets. SBA can also lend additional funds to businesses and homeowners to help with the cost of improvements to protect, prevent or minimize the same type of disaster damage from occurring in the future, according to the press release. 

For small businesses, agricultural cooperatives and most private nonprofit organizations of any size, SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working financial needs caused by the disaster. Economic injury assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any property damage, according to SBA. 

Disaster loans of up to $200,000 are available to homeowners for repairing or replacing damaged or destroyed real estate, SBA said. Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property.

Interest rates can be as low as 3% for businesses, 2.75% for private nonprofit organizations, and 1.188% for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years, SBA said. Loan amounts and terms are set by SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

Applicants may apply online, and call SBA's Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 or send an email to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information. Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call (800) 877-8339. 

Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX  76155.

The deadline to apply for property damage is April, 2021 and the deadline for economic injury is Nov. 9, 2021, SBA said. 

 “SBA is strongly committed to providing Washington with the most effective and customer-focused response possible, and we will be there to provide access to federal disaster loans to help finance recovery for businesses and residents affected by the disaster,” said acting Administrator Tami L. Perriello. “Getting our businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is our highest priority at SBA.”

On Wednesday, Feb. 10, SBA will also establish a virtual Business Recovery Center to provide personalized assistance to business owners and open a virtual Disaster Loan Outreach Center for homeowners and renters. Customer service representatives will be available to answer questions, explain the application process and help each person complete their electronic loan application. 

The centers will open from 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday via email at FOCWAssistance@sba.gov or by calling 800-659-2955. They will be closed on President's Day.

RELATED: Washington bill would add more money, equipment to wildfire response