Small Business Administration opens quake recovery office in Eagle River

Friday, February 15, 2019 - 09:50

The U.S. Small Business Administration will open a Business Recovery Center in downtown Eagle River Thursday to help people affected by the Nov. 30, 2018 earthquake apply for low-interest federal loans and begin the process of applying for individual federal disaster assistance.

The office will be located in the Eagle River Town Center Building at 12001 Business Boulevard. It will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Both SBA and Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) officials will be on hand.

The SBA announced the opening of the office in a Wednesday press release.

The center will provide assistance to business owners, homeowners and even renters hurt by the magnitude 7.0 quake. The SBA can help business owners, while FEMA workers will aid with registration and preliminary case work.

“Services include assessing business working capital needs, evaluating the business’s strength, cash flow projections, and most importantly, a review of options with the business owner to help them evaluate their alternatives and make decisions that are appropriate for their situation,” Alaska Small Business Development Center executive director John Bittner said in the release.

The press release said businesses of any size and nonprofits may borrow up to $2 million to replace or repair damage assets. The loans are intended to cover losses not covered by insurance.

According to the SBA, homeowners and renters may be eligble for up to $200,000 to repair or replace their primary residence, as well as up to $40,000 to replace personal property (including vehicles). Home loan rates are 2 percent interest, loans to nonprofits are 2.75 percent and loans to businesses are 3.74 percent.

At Wednesday’s Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce meeting, SBA Field Operations-West public information officer Bill Koontz said there’s no cost to apply for the loans and no obligation to accept a loan after someone applies.

The most important thing is to apply — and soon — as the deadline is April 1.

“By best advice is apply, apply, apply,” he said.

Customer service representatives at the center will be able to discuss SBA disaster loans and how they can help businesses finance their recovery, according to the release.

Alaska business owners and homeowners became eligible for the federal loans after President Trump declared a federal disaster last week. The declaration set in motion a number of federal program for both individuals and businesses impacted by the quake.

“Because of the property damage and economic losses to businesses caused by the earthquake, we want to provide every available service to help get them back on their feet,” said Tanya N. Garfield, director of the SBA’s Disaster Field Operations Center-West in Wednesday’s announcement. “The center will provide a one-stop location for businesses to access a variety of specialized help. SBA customer service representatives and Small Business Development Center counselors will be available to meet individually with each business owner.”

The loans are separate from state assistance. There is no appointment needed to speak to a representative and all services provided at the center are free of charge.

“SBA customer service representatives will meet with each business owner to explain how an SBA disaster loan can help finance their recovery. They will answer questions about SBA’s disaster loan program, explain the application process and help each business owner complete their electronic loan application,” Garfield said.

To apply, go to disasterloan.sba.gov/ela, visit the center in person or call (800) 659-2955.

This story has been updated to clarify that both SBA and FEMA workers will be available to help both business owners and private individuals.

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