Storm delays opening of SBA Disaster Relief Center

KEVIN HARVISON | Staff photoMichael D. Flores, public information officer for the federal Small Business Administration's Office of Disaster Assistance, speaks about the types of help that will be available to qualifying applicants at the SBA Disaster Assistance Center in Haileyville. Due to severe weather, opening day for the center was pushed back a day, to Wednesday, May 22.s 

Alice Fink arrived at the Haileyville Civic Center on Tuesday ready to learn if she is qualified for federal disaster assistance in connection with the tornado that destroyed her home last month.

However, she learned she would have to wait at least one more day to get the answer.

Storms that rolled through on Tuesday delayed the opening of federal Small Business Administration Disaster Relief Center in the Haileyville Civic Center, also known as the District 1 County Barn, at 200 Craig Ave.

Originally set to open on Tuesday, opening of the center has been pushed back a day, to Wednesday, May 22, due to the severe weather that rolled through the Twin Cities area Tuesday morning, resulting in a tornado warning.

No serious storm damage was reported in the Hartshorne-Haileyville area as a result of the Tuesday storms. SBA Disaster Assistant specialists are coming to Haileyville on Wednesday to help home owners, renters and business operators with damages as a result of the tornado that struck Haileyville and outlying rural areas April 30.

District 1 Foreman Wade Mathis said that he received notification that the SBA representatives would be there Wednesday — not Tuesday, as originally planned. The big kitchen area in the Civic Center will be ready for them when they arrive.

"We're set up and ready to go," Mathis said.

Plans call for the Disaster Loan Outreach Center in Haileyville to remain open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays until it's set to close for good at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 6. It will be closed on Monday, May 27, for Memorial Day.

Fink seemed OK with the news she would have to wait at least one more day to talk to an SBA representative.

She said her home was hit by the April 30 tornado that struck Haileyville.

"I lost my house. It destroyed it," Fink said. Fortunately for her, she was not inside the residence at the time.

"I was in the cellar," Fink said. She remembers the noise, and something else, as the tornado passed overhead.

"The pressure was tremendous,"Fink said. When she emerged from the cellar after the storm passed, she saw the destruction left in its wake.

"My little house is gone," she said. She also spoke of damage to farm equipment and other property.

Fink is the kind of storm victim the SBA wants to see. Although it's too early to say who will be approved for the disaster assistance relief, talking with an SBA representative is the first step, said SBA Public Information Officer Michael D. Flores.

The SBA Disaster Relief program is open to qualifying homeowners, renters, nonprofits and businesses in the form of low interest loans.

Flores said those with any type of storm damage as a result of the storms beginning April 30 should apply, including those with no insurance and those who are uninsured. Those with insurance should apply as well, Flores said, adding that there may be aspects of the SBA Disaster Assistance Program for which they would be qualified.

"If they sustained any type of damage, come talk to us," Flores said.

The lowest interest SBA disaster assistance loan is at 1.9 percent interest for individual homeowners and renters, with terms of up to 30 years, he said.

Interest rates can be as low as 4 percent for businesses and 2.75 percent for private nonprofit organizations

"We want to encourage people to come," Flores said. "Even if they think "I may not need the loan,' we want them to come anyway."

In addition to physical damages to buildings and other property, business operators may apply for SBA assistance for economic injuries, Flores said.

ASBA Disaster Outreach Center is also in Atoka County at 621 Ironstob Road in Lane. It was set to open on Tuesday, May 21, and set to remain open the rest of the week from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. until it's closed for goodat 6 p.m. on Friday, May 24.

Also, plans called for a SBA Disaster outreach center in Bryan County to open on Tuesday, May 21, in Rock Creek Elementary School at 23072 U.S. Highway 70 in Durant, and for it to remain open from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m. until it closes at 6 p.m. Thursday. June 6. It will also be closed on Monday, May 27, for Memorial Day.

SBA assistance is also available in Choctaw, Coal, Haskell, Hughes, Johnston, Latimer, Marshall, McIntosh, and Pushmataha counties in Oklahoma, along with Grayson, Fannin and Lemar counties, in Texas.

Contact James Beaty at jbeaty@mcalesternews.com