SBA opens loans for area freeze losses

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The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is making disaster loans available to businesses and organizations that suffered economic losses during the freeze that blanketed North Central Florida in late January.

The declaration covers Alachua, Bradford, Columbia, Gilchrist, Levy, Marion, Putnam and Union counties. It opens up loans to small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture, and most nonprofit organizations with economic losses due to the Jan. 29-31 freeze, when temperatures plunged into the low 20s.

Many citrus growers initially reported minimal impacts from the freeze, but those grew to reportedly 30% crop losses within weeks.

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“When the Secretary of Agriculture issues a disaster declaration to help farmers recover from damages and losses to crops, the Small Business Administration issues a declaration to eligible entities, affected by the same disaster,” Kem Fleming, director of SBA’s Field Operations Center East, said in a press release.

Under this declaration, the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program is available to eligible farm-related and nonfarm-related entities that suffered financial losses as a direct result of this disaster. Apart from aquaculture enterprises, SBA cannot provide disaster loans to agricultural producers, farmers, and ranchers.

According to the SBA press release, loan amounts are capped at $2 million. Interest rates are 2.94% for small businesses and 1.875% for private nonprofit organizations, with terms up to 30 years.

“These working capital loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that could have been paid had the disaster not occurred,” the SBA release said. “The loans are not intended to replace lost sales or profits.”

SBA directed applicants to apply online at DisasterLoanAssistance.sba.gov/ela/s/ and use SBA declaration #17574.

More information and paper application forms are available through SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 or DisasterCustomerService@sba.gov. Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155.

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