Federal agency offering low-interest loans to businesses impacted by ice storm

By Ben Holbrook | Mar 05, 2014

Businesses in Waldo County that were impacted the 2013 ice storm can apply for a low-interest loan through the Small Business Administration, as the state continues to push for a federal disaster declaration.

Governor Paul LePage announced Thursday, Feb. 27, that the SBA issued an Economic Injury Disaster Loan declaration for the state, which can be used to address business losses associated with the ice storm.

The declaration specifically applies to Androscoggin, Cumberland, Hancock, Kennebec and Waldo Counties. However, the disaster loans will also be available in Franklin, Knox, Lincoln, Oxford, Penobscot, Sagadahoc, Somerset, Washington and York Counties, according to a news release from the governor's office.

Information will be released in the near future to explain the process for businesses and nonprofit groups to apply for the loans.

The governor has also submitted a request for Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster assistance.

When the state submitted its initial request following the ice storm, there was a disagreement with FEMA in regards to a particular policy used to determine eligibility for disaster costs. According to a news release from the governor, FEMA tried to apply a snowstorm policy and as a result, much of the cost of sanding and salting roads during and after the storm was deemed ineligible.

“I'm glad to be able to request FEMA assistance, and we've been able to show eligibility especially for Washington and Waldo Counties. But there were significant costs all over the state, and we'll continue to work with FEMA to verify those figures,” LePage said in a news release.

Dale Rowley, Waldo County's emergency management director, said the county's initial application documented about $660,000 in damages in the towns. However, FEMA reduced the total assessed damage to about $14,000, which meant the county was not eligible for aid.

Rowley was critical of FEMA's initial assessment and said the agency never sent any of its people to visit the towns and instead made a few phone calls to town officials from their offices in Augusta.

Rowley previously estimated that as many as 80 percent of residents in the county were without power due to the storm.

When officials submitted a revised application to FEMA they completed a more detailed documentation that still determined the county sustained about $200,000 worth of damage as a result of the ice storm.

The FEMA assistance for counties and municipalities, if it is provided, would bring 75 percent federal reimbursement for clearing debris and emergency protective measures, as well as other eligible damages. Another 15 percent in reimbursement funds would be provided by the state, according to the news release.

Rowley said he hopes FEMA will respond to the state's application within the next few weeks.

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Ben Holbrook
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Ben Holbrook is a reporter for The Republican Journal covering general news.

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