Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Columbia County/Florida News

FEMA/SBA – Tropical Storm Debby Disaster Assistance: Sept. 4th witching hour approaches

Alarm Clock: 5 minutes to midnightCOLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Time is running out to apply for disaster assistance if you were impacted and suffered a loss as a result of Tropical Storm Debby. Columbia County, FEMA and the SBA are on a final push to make sure all those that need to register and apply for assistance get registered and have their applications filed.

Last night, Columbia County's Harvey Campbell advised the Observer that the County is printing up signs for distribution to convenience stores, gas stations, churches, and supermarkets highlighting the September 4th application deadline.

Mr. Campbell said, "The County is making a final push to make sure we reach everyone who was impacted by Debby and that they apply for the assistance they need. We don't want to miss anyone."

Click image for phone numbers and links.

The SBA: "The clock is ticking"

Richard Daigle, the SBA's Florida point man was in FEMA's Disaster Recovery Center in Lake City (DRC) yesterday.

Mr. Daigle told the Observer, "The SBA has given out $10 million in loans since the declaration of the disaster in Florida. What this says is that people who are completing the applications are getting approved for money."

"We are continuously encouraging people to make applications with the SBA. We are getting closer and closer to the deadline. We want to help as many people as we can. We want to get money into people's hands so they can rebuild, get their property and lives back. In order for us to help them, we need them to return the completed SBA loan application."

"I cannot emphasize it strongly enough, if someone is approved for the loan they do not have to take it, but they can determine whether or not the loan works for them."

"The SBA offers interest rates as low as 1.98%."

"I can't impress enough on people that the clock is ticking and if they haven't done it they just have to get their applications in."

What if a person has insurance?

The Observer, "What if a person has insurance?"

The SBA's Daigle, "The loan applicant does not have to wait to settle up with their insurance company. We encourage them to apply with us before they settle with their insurance company. If someone is haggling with their insurance company the SBA does not want you to be haggling past the deadline without putting in an SBA loan application. The SBA can always factor in the insurance later.

The Observer, "What if you settle with your insurance company after you get the loan?"

Mr. Daigle, "We will work with you to sort out the insurance part. The big message is if you're in a conversation with your insurance company apply for the loan. This is what the SBA wants you to do."

FEMA: "The assistance doesn't stop when the DRC is closed."

FEMA's Rufus "Ted" Stucky echoed the SBA's Daigle, "If someone needs assistance, we can't help them if they don't register. They can register over the phone and on the internet. If they aren't in the system after September 4th, we can't help them."

The Observer asked, "Do you have any idea how long the DRC will remain open?"

Mr. Stucky, "I don't. That's something FEMA looks at on a daily basis and they work with the state to determine when they need to close the centers."

The Observer, "Is there any lead time with that?"

Mr. Stucky, "There will be a news release sent out announcing the closing. The news release usually comes out the week they make that decision. There is a little bit of lead time because we want that last push to make sure that everybody that needs assistance gets it."

”It's important to know that any time we close a center the assistance doesn't stop. One can still call the 800 number. The benefit of the DRC is that it is face-to-face contact and that makes for really good communication."

"And one more thing, anyone can use any DRC. A person doesn’t have to be a resident of the area where the center is located. If someone needs assistance all of FEMA's centers are open to them."

The Observer, "Thanks for your time."

Mr. Stucky, "No problem, we are here to help." 

Photo credit: shapingyouth.org

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