Federal Aid Sought For Tornado Relief

Mar 1, 2016

Governor Rick Scott tours tornado damaged areas.
Credit Sandra Averhart

Governor Rick Scott requested on Monday that President Obama issue a federal emergency declaration for Escambia and Santa Rosa Counties, in the wake of two tornadoes in as many weeks.

The Governor made the request after inspecting tornado damage in Century and Pensacola last week.

“The city’s going to do their job, the county’s going to do their job, the state’s going to do their job” said Scott. “And we’re going to make sure any resources we can get from the federal government, we make that happen.”

If granted, the declaration would clear the way for low-interest loans for residents and businesses hit by the EF-3 twisters. Carol Chastang with the Small Business Administration says those rates are 4% for businesses, and under 4% for homeowners.

“Homeowners may borrow up to $200,000,” said Chastang. “Homeowners may also borrow an additional $40,000 t0 cover anything that’s not covered by insurance. Businesses that suffered physical damages may borrow up to $2 million.”

According to county figures, 653 homes and businesses were destroyed or damaged by the tornadoes. The SBA and Federal Emergency Management Agency conducted damage assessments in Escambia and Santa Rosa last week, with the results to be announced in the next few days.

Recovery centers will also be opening in the next few days in the two counties. Chastang says applicants will come in and work one-on-one with SBA loan specialists in going through the process.

“Folks can just go right into the recovery center and say ‘OK, I have questions – what do I need, how do I apply?’” said Chastang. The loan specialists will be able to answer every question.”

While the two twisters in Escambia County are considered an anomaly, tornado season is just getting started in the Southeast. Chastang says tornadoes and flooding help form what the SBA considers its busy season, and urges everyone to be prepared.

“For businesses, a preparedness plan and encouraging employees: does everybody know the escape route?” says Chastang. “Does everybody have access to the plan? Is it something that everybody can access online?”

More information and the online assistance application can be found at www.sba.gov/disaster. Or you can call (800) 659-2955.