Deadline looms for post-Fay aid, but few seeking it

Oct 8, 2008

Want help rebuilding? Oct. 27 last day for low-interest government loan

Florida Today--October 8, 2008

The Oct. 27 deadline to apply for low-interest government loans to rebuild after Tropical Storm Fay is fast approaching. But less than 10 percent of people issued applications locally have submitted their paperwork, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The SBA administers the loans, of which there are two kinds for homeowners, renters and businesses: one general loan for physical damage, and another for economic injury to help businesses stay afloat.

The Oct. 27 deadline is for loans covering physical damage.

Among the local residents to participate in the program is Michelle Lewis, who owns a house that she rents out on Stratford Drive in the unincorporated part of Brevard County, near Cocoa. The house sustained damage during Fay and Hurricane Wilma in 2005.

For the second time in three years, Lewis, 44, applied for and received an SBA loan.

This time around, she spent $5,300 to repair some drywall and replace a ruined
air-conditioning unit.

In February, she will begin making $199 monthly payments on the loan.

“We were fortunate,” said Lewis, who owns and manages several properties. “I looked at it as a good deal.”

A good deal, but in tough economic times, perhaps not for everyone.

Kathy Martin, 60, a NASA contractor, is in a different place financially and emotionally. She lived in her Stratford Drive home for 30 years and raised her children there. She dreads another storm, and questions if rebuilding is worth it.

The economy and Martin’s job uncertainty at NASA beyond 2010 weighs heavily on her decision-making.

Damage to her home was severe — three lost appliances, damaged interior doors and drywall.

She wants to apply for a loan and estimates she’ll need $10,000, possibly more.

Taking out a loan will depend on the amount, interest and repayment options she’s offered, she said.

“I can’t really afford another (monthly) payment,” she said. “It just depends. What are they going to give me? Is it worth my while?”
Trying to recoup

People still are recovering from last month’s storm, Brevard County officials say.

“We still every day have at least 30-some-odd people going to our disaster recovery center, and that’s a large number, considering how long it’s been after the event,” Brevard County Emergency Management Director Bob Lay said. “From everything I’ve seen, we certainly were the hardest-hit county in the state.”