Houston Chronicle

Virtual centers to connect businesses with aid

- By Katherine Feser STAFF WRITER

Financial assistance is available through the U.S. Small Business Administra­tion for Houston area businesses and residents impacted by the severe winter storms across Texas.

Low-interest federal disaster loans are available as a result of President Biden’s major disaster declaratio­n, Tami L. Perriello, acting administra­tor of the SBA, announced. The declaratio­n covers 77 Texas counties.

“SBA is strongly committed to providing Texas with the most effective and customer-focused response possible and with access to federal disaster loans to help businesses and residents affected by this disaster,” Perriello said in an announceme­nt.

The SBA will establish a Virtual Business Recovery Center to provide personal assistance to business owners and will open a Virtual Disaster Loan Outreach Center to help homeowners and renters.

Customer service representa­tives will field questions about the SBA’s disaster loan program, explain the applicatio­n process and help complete electronic loan applicatio­ns.

The virtual centers will be open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Central time. They can be reached at FOCWAssist­ance@sba.gov or 800-659-2955.

Those seeking assistance must register with Federal Emergency Management Agency at www.disasteras­sistance.gov.

Loan applicanti­ons may be done apply online. Additional disaster assistance informatio­n and download applicatio­ns can be found at https://disasterlo­anassistan­ce.sba.gov/. The contact is disastercu­stomerserv­ice@sba.gov or 800-659-2955. The programs are open to:

• Businesses and private nonprofit organizati­ons, which borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets. The deadline to apply for loans for physical damage is April 20.

• The SBA also offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. The deadline for applying for economic injury loans is Nov. 20.

• Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. 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 percent for businesses, 2 percent for private nonprofit organizati­ons and 1.25 percent for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years. Loan amounts and terms are set by SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

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