Residents and business owners can now apply for disaster relief following May’s historic flooding that affected seven counties, including Cherokee County.
Those affected by the floods can meet face-to-face with specialists from the Federal Emergency Management Office and the US Small Business Administration at the Disaster Recovery Center this week.
Corey Williams, public information officer for the US Small Business Administration, said the Individuals in Households program provides direct assistance to homeowners, renters, business owners and nonprofit organizations. The Disaster Recovery Centers act as a “one-stop shop” where FEMA and SBA specialists can assist anyone in the process.
“DRCs play a critical role in assisting communities affected by a disaster,” said Krystal Smith, Public Information Officer, FEMA Region 6. “While the fastest, most convenient way to apply for FEMA assistance is online or through the FEMA mobile app DRCs is offer people the opportunity to have a face-to-face interview with a specialist who can help them with the application process.”
Businesses and nonprofits can borrow up to $2 million to repair damaged property, machinery and equipment. Homeowners can borrow up to $200,000 for expenses to repair damaged real estate and up to $40,000 to repair damaged personal property.
“Once you register with FEMA, you may receive a referral to the US Small Business Administration’s Office of Disaster Assistance. As a homeowner, and particularly as a renter in Tahlequah and Cherokee County, the first question a homeowner will ask is, “Why SBA? I don’t have a business,'” Williams said.
Blake Lyons’ home sustained damage to the floor, interior and exterior walls, furniture and cabinetry. He lives in the Tenkiller Lake area and has applied for a disaster loan.
“I also got funding pretty quickly when I applied online; FEMA made it really easy,” Lyons said. “FEMA guides you through the entire process. They conduct a thorough inspection and advise you on any programs you may qualify for as a result of the flooding.”
Lyons said he received his help via direct transfer about two to three business days after the initial inspection.
Williams said an important aspect of catastrophe loans is the requirement that the applicant has suffered economic damage.
“We have our Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, which provides working capital for businesses to sustain themselves during the initial phase of recovery. Often you can see water on the ground, windows blown out, roofs blown off, but one thing most companies can’t see is economic damage,” Williams said.
Examples of economic damage include lost revenue, an inability to keep up with monthly benefit plans, or the laying off of employees.
“Although the deadline for economic damages is not until March 29, 2023, it is important to be very proactive and detect economic damages early in the process. Don’t wait until the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth month,” Williams said.
Those who have been referred to SBA for disaster relief and are denied will be referred back to FEMA for assistance. The physical deadline for homeowners or renters who have suffered physical damage is August 29th.
The Disaster Recovery Center is Monday through Thursday from 10:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. in the Community Building at 908 S. College Ave. open.