SBA assesses homes, businesses for low-interest loans after the stormOfficials from Wisconsin Emergency Management and the Small Business Administration gathered clues — watermarks, snapshots, first person accounts and the slope of the ground — as they assessed flood damage to Superior homes Thursday.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
Officials from Wisconsin Emergency Management and the Small Business Administration gathered clues — watermarks, snapshots, first person accounts and the slope of the ground — as they assessed flood damage to Superior homes Thursday.
“Every flood is a disaster for that homeowner,” said Wisconsin Emergency Management spokesman Tod Pritchard. “It’s a tragedy, it’s a mess and it takes so long to recover from it.”
The team that toured Superior Thursday was focused on bringing help to flood-affected home and business owners in the form of low-interest SBA loans.
“If we can assess the homes, find out if we do reach that level to be able to get the area qualified for SBA loan, that’s what this team is all about,” Pritchard said.
To meet the requirements, at least 25 homes or businesses must have sustained at least 40 percent uninsured property damage. At that point, an SBA Agency Declaration can be requested.
Once the declaration has been made, anyone in the county can apply for low interest loans of up to $200,000 for property damage and up to $40,000 to repair or replace personal property per homeowner or renter.
As of Wednesday, the county had received 701 reports of damage from the June 19-20 flood. Of those, 302 had a foot of water or less in their home/business. Another 307 had minor damage, under eight feet of water. Sixteen reported major damage with eight feet of water or more in their homes. Much of the damage was clustered in pockets. Dave Sletten, emergency planner risk manager for Douglas County, said the hardest hit areas were around Central Park, near the Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College and in Superior’s South End.
Sheri Keppers, who lives on the 500 block of East Fifth Street, showed officials pictures of the neighborhood underwater, and the “second wave” of water that rolled into the area after it topped the railroad tracks. Water filled the basement of the home. As she saw it rise, Keppers tried to salvage some of the items stored there. She remembered grabbing, of all things, a pair of her daughter’s snow pants. The damage was bad, she said, but the important thing was that the young children in the house got to safety.
After touring through the Central Park area for less than three hours, 12 homes had been found that met the criteria.
Some homes just didn’t meet the criteria. While Ella Cross of East Seventh Street had to replace the electrical panel on her boiler and remove paneling when about four feet of water filled her basement, she was insured for $5,000. She said her insurance company paid her right away so she could get the work done.
“But we’re looking at the worst damage, now, too,” said Mike Peele, construction analyst with SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance. “Still got a ways to go. But there’s more damage here than they even know themselves.”
Patrick O’Connor, bureau director for response and recovery with WEM, said this team, as well as the team assessing public damage with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is not just looking at the physical damage. They’re also taking in the big picture, such as the added economic impact that things like a washed-out trail or failed road have on the area.
“I think the bottom line is in terms of Wisconsin Emergency Management and our partners with Small Business Association, we’re just trying to figure out what’s the best way we can get folks some relief up here,” Pritchard said. “And probably this loan is the best option at this point for individuals.”
Peele said he expected to wrap up assessment Thursday. That information will be sent to the governor’s office. Gov. Scott Walker will decide whether to seek a declaration, which must then be approved by the SBA.
“Should be done by next week,” Peele said. “We move it pretty fast. It’s not as difficult to get it through … once you meet the requirements.”