Close to eight thousand Virgin Islanders are seeking disaster relief with the help of the federal government. A spokesman for the U.S. Small Business Administration says the overwhelming majority of disaster relief loans in the V.I. is going to homeowners and renters.
As of close of business Nov. 19, there were 7,972 applications for hurricane disaster relief on file with SBA from the V.I., said public affairs specialist Solomon Wheeler. To date, $58.6 million in disaster loans have been approved, he said.
Those figures reflect loan activity, territory-wide. Wheeler estimates 85 percent of the funding covers losses incurred by homeowners and renters. One of the agency’s information specialists says the process differs from those used in previous disasters where financial relief came through the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
At the same time, the SBA specialist said the public must be mindful of the amount of time left to file loan applications. Applicants can seek loan relief to repair physical damage brought on by September Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“We want to continue to encourage individuals who have been impacted by these two hurricanes to be aware of the next upcoming deadline, Dec. 18. That is for physical damage applications,” Wheeler said.
Loan categories include Home and Personal Property Loans, Business Physical Disaster Loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans. Economic injury occurs when applicants lose business or other revenue as a result of changing conditions brought on by storm damage.
By way of an example, Solomon spoke of businesses like Airbnb lodging providers, dive boat operators or taxi and tour operators whose revenue may drop because of fewer visitors.
Wheeler said low interest loans are offered after administrators review the application and analyze the individual’s or business’s’ borrowing capacity.
“It’s not notched to the amount of damage. It’s matched to the ability to pay back,” he said.
Businesses can apply for up to $2 million to cover physical damage or economic injury. Applicants who are deemed ineligible for SBA loans are encouraged to reapply with FEMA. If they meet the criteria, Wheeler said, FEMA may award a disaster relief grant that does not require repayment.
On St. John, applicants can visit the FEMA recovery centers in Cruz Bay at the Legislature Building or in Coral Bay at the Town and Country Building, across from Skinny Legs.
Further information can be found by visiting www.sba.gov or by calling 800-659-2955.
SBA Business Development Centers can also be found on St. Thomas at Nisky Center, Suite 16 and on St. Croix at Sion Farm Shopping Center.
Administrators of the SBA Disaster Loan Program are advising the public that the centers will close Thursday, Nov. 23 and Friday, Nov. 24 in honor of the Thanksgiving holiday.