Flood victims can get loans at Laguna SBA offices

Laguna Beach residents and businesses damaged in the recent flooding will be able to apply for low-interest federal Small Business Administration loans from an office in Laguna Beach.

SBA advisors will be stationed at the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce, 357 Glenneyre St., from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays. The office will be open until further notice, according to the SBA.

The SBA will hold an informational meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday at the City Council Chambers, 505 Forest Ave., according to Chamber Executive Director Rose Hancock.

The deadline to apply for assistance is April 4. Anyone with damage is advised to file an application, SBA spokesman Mark Randle said.

Applicants do not need to bring proof that they were damaged in the storms that caused flooding and mud between Dec. 17 and Jan. 4, Randle said.

"The advisors will talk and answer questions and help with the application process," he said.

After the application is filed, an SBA official will make a personal visit to the location and assess the damage. Randle said that receipts for repairs and photographs of damage would be valuable.

Homeowners may apply for a maximum of $200,000. For renters, the maximum is $40,000, to replace damaged or destroyed personal property at an interest rate of 2.25%, according to a statement from the SBA.

Businesses may apply for a maximum of $2 million to replace damaged or destroyed real estate, inventory or equipment, at a loan rate of 4%. The loans may be for 30-year terms, Randle said.

"We should have an answer for homeowners and renters within 10 days and within 10 to 15 days for businesses," he said.

Hancock said she is pleased the organization chose the chamber in which to open a local office.

"The chamber is very happy to host the SBA, which is coming to Laguna to assist the businesses and residents affected by the flood to get loans," Hancock said.

An office will also be opened Monday and Wednesday in Irvine, said Hancock, who met with SBA officials Monday.

Some in Laguna have questioned whether the SBA office should have been opened at the Community Center on Third Street, a city-operated facility, instead of the chamber offices.

"I would have thought it would be better to have had the office at the Community Center," City Councilman Kelly Boyd said. "The parking and the seating are better. Plus, having it at the chamber might give some people the impression that the SBA will only be helping businesses."

For more information, call (800) 659-2955, e-mail disastercustomerservice@sba.gov, or visit http://www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance. Applications may be filed through disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

—Barbara Diamond contributed to this story

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