News Column

Sandy-Affected Home and Business Owners seek FEMA, SBA Help

Nov. 3, 2012

Michael L. Diamond

fema, small business administration, hurricane sandy

Confused about where FEMA ends and the SBA begins?

You're not alone.

The two federal agencies -- the Federal Emergency Management Association and the Small Business Administration -- are extending hands both to homeowners and business owners, but which one to contact can at times be anyone's guess.

Ollie Klein, owner of Klein's Fish Market in Belmar, NJ, found his restaurant not completely destroyed but with significant damage. He called FEMA on Thursday. It referred him to the SBA.

Rep. J. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., whose district includes the washed-out Bayshore, Sea Bright and Belmar, said FEMA is considered the one-stop shop for disaster relief. It coordinates relief for municipalities to rebuild dunes, boardwalks, harbors and piers.

It also can provide grants for a long list of services beyond what's covered by insurance. It can provide money to repair and rebuild their dwellings and find temporary housing -- short-term hotel expenses, rent for up to 18 months, or, as a last resort, a FEMA manufactured housing unit.

It also can provide grants for Sandy-related medical and dental expenses, funeral expenses, clothing, furniture, education items such as computers.

There is money available for heating oil or natural gas, equipment needed for cleanup, moving and storage expenses.

It also provides counseling services.

Pallone said Congress still must appropriate the money. But he has requested FEMA set up at least two disaster centers in Monmouth County where people can apply for help.

Pallone also cautioned people to be wary if they are approached by people who say they are from FEMA. "If they don't have a FEMA shirt and a FEMA badge, they're fake," he said.

Both homeowners and business owners may be referred to the SBA, which has a disaster relief program of its own. The big difference: It offers loans instead of grants.

The primary programs:

-- Homeowners can apply for direct loans of up to $200,000 to repair or replace real estate beyond what's covered by insurance. The loans have interest rates as low as 1.7 percent and can be repaid over 30 years.

-- Homeowners and renters can apply for loans of up to $40,000 -- also as low as 1.7 percent -- to repair or replace personal property that isn't covered by insurance.

-- Businesses and nonprofit organizations can borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace real estate, machinery or inventory. The loan may be increased to pay for improvements that can mitigate future disasters. The business loans have an interest rate of 4 percent; the nonprofit loans are 3 percent.

-- Businesses with fewer than 500 employees and agriculture and aquatic businesses are eligible for loans of up to $2 million to use as working capital that can help them pay the bills that are due.

"We encourage people not to wait on the insurance settlement," said Carol Chastang, a spokeswoman for the SBA. "Just call the SBA as soon as possible or apply online."

FEMA is the starting point for both homeowners and businesses. People can apply for disaster relief at; through smart phones at; or by calling 800-621-3362.

Home and business owners interested in the loan program can apply at

Staff writer Bill Canacci contributed to this story.


(c)2012 the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.)

Visit the Asbury Park Press (Neptune, N.J.) at

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