While the Business Recovery Center opened its doors Wednesday in Jefferson City to those impacted by recent flooding and the May 22 tornado, teams from the Federal Emergency Management Agency were out helping people register for federal assistance.
The U.S. Small Business Administration and the Missouri Small Business Development Center partnered to open the SBA Business Recovery Center at the Lincoln University Small Business Development Center, 917 Leslie Blvd. The center will be open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"Before we even opened the doors, we had a business owner in here waiting to see SBA, so you can tell that there's definitely a need for business owners in Cole County that have been impacted by these devastating tornadoes," SBA Public Information Officer Corey Williams said.
The SBA offers low-interest loans to businesses, renters, homeowners and nonprofits in places hit by declared disasters. Residents can apply for assistance at the center, at SBA.gov/disaster or by calling 1-800-659-2955.
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Lakaisha McCaleb, owner of Joy & Gladness Children's Academy, applied for a loan through SBA to help relocate the child care center and get it back in operation. The 24-hour center at 511 E. McCarty St. was condemned due to damage from the May 22 tornado and will be demolished.
Businesses shouldn't be afraid of applying for federal assistance, McCaleb said, adding the process was simple.
"Of course they're going to have to run your credit, but it doesn't hurt to take a chance, especially if you know you really need the extra help, like me," she said. "We definitely need the extra money, extra income, because now we have to relocate, so we have to get another lease and have to have money going in as far as for the payroll, furniture and equipment lost as well."
McCaleb said she is unsure where the child care center will relocate and when it will reopen.
Todd Tibbetts, owner of TNT Surplus, also went to the SBA Business Recovery Center to apply for a loan. He said the business in North Jefferson City sustained "catastrophic" flood damage over the last two months.
North Jefferson City is located in Callaway County, which was not listed on President Donald Trump's July 9 major disaster declaration. The declaration made individual assistance available to those impacted by flooding, tornadoes and severe storms since April 29 in Cole, Boone, Miller, Osage, Andrew, Atchison, Buchanan, Carroll, Chariton, Greene, Holt, Jackson, Jasper, Lafayette, Lincoln, Livingston, Pike, Platte, Pulaski and St. Charles counties.
Excluding Callaway County created a "catch-22" for business owners in North Jefferson City impacted by flooding and who want to apply for loans, Tibbetts said.
"I'm kind of in a limbo on what may be offered at this exact point in time," he said. "The governor needs to get this Callaway County, Jefferson City part figured out just to help anybody else that's on the Callaway County side. Between the governor and president, it's a simple omission, but it needs to be taken care of."
The Missouri State Emergency Management Agency requested Tuesday that FEMA expand Trump's declaration to include more counties, including Callaway County, and provide assistance to public agencies.
If businesses had physical and economic damages or just physical damages, they must apply for an SBA loan by Sept. 9. Businesses applying only for economic injury disaster loans have until April 9, 2020, Williams said.
Before applying for an SBA loan, homeowners and renters must first register for assistance through FEMA by calling 800-621-3362 between 7 a.m.-10 p.m. any day or by visiting DisasterAssistance.gov, Williams said.
When applying for the loans at the center, Williams previously said, "bring yourself."
"If you know your Social (Security number) and address and basic information, you don't really have to do anything but bring yourself," he said. "If there are other supplemental documents that a business owner may need such as their tax returns or some of their financial documents, we will give them extra time, but the main thing is to get their application in the system before the deadline."
Businesses and nonprofits can apply for a business physical disaster loan for up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster-damaged real estate, machinery, inventory and equipment, Williams said.
They can also apply for economic injury disaster loans for up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations they can't meet during the recovery period of a disaster, he added.
Homeowners and renters can apply for home disaster loans through SBA, which go toward repairing or replacing disaster-damaged real estate and personal property. The loan can go up to $200,000 to repair real estate and up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property, Williams said.
Those applying for SBA loans at the Business Recovery Center will not receive automatic approval, Williams said, adding SBA must review documents before issuing a decision. Businesses not approved for loans have six months to apply for reconsideration, he added.
It could take two to three weeks for homeowners or renters and four to six weeks for businesses and nonprofits to receive funds, Williams said.
Williams said the business recovery center will remain open "as long as the need exists."
Also on Wednesday, Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams with FEMA were going door-to-door in parts of Jefferson City and Cole County impacted by flooding and the tornado to identify immediate needs, help residents register for disaster assistance or check statuses on their applications if they have already applied.
Other teams are sprinkled throughout the other 19 counties listed in Trump's disaster declaration.
FEMA's assistance could help with making temporary repairs to damaged homes, paying for a temporary place to live, medical bills and more.
"It's not intended to be used for such things as damaged TVs, radios, Nintendos," FEMA spokeswoman Renae "Nikki" Gaskins said. "You can live without that, but everyone needs a safe roof over their head."
Before registering, residents should file with their insurance first, Gaskins said. By law, FEMA cannot duplicate insurance payments. However, people can register regardless of whether they have insurance.
When registering, residents should provide their current address, address of the damaged property, contact information and Social Security number, as well as information about the makeup of the household, insurance and their income.
After registering, a FEMA inspector will contact the resident to set up an appointment to view the damage.
FEMA and DSAT members have photo identification badges. If a member can't produce a FEMA ID, the resident can call law enforcement.
"Unfortunately, during a disaster, there are bad people out there who like to prey on the vulnerable," Gaskins said. "If our teams come to your door, we will never ask a survivor for money. If someone posing as FEMA does, consider that a red flag. If at any point you still aren't entirely convinced that you have an actual FEMA representative in front of you, it's perfectly OK to call the police. At the end of the day, it's better safe than sorry."