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SBA's Sandy application window winding down

Time is winding down for companies and homeowners hurt by Hurricane Sandy to apply for disaster assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Pending a last-minute extension, the deadline to apply for low-interest disaster relief loans from the SBA is April 1.

Debra Freeland, an SBA spokeswoman, said as of Wednesday, nearly 175,000 federal aid applicants had been sent out by the agency, but only 28,833 completed applications had been received. The bulk of those completed applications came from homeowners and renters, with about 5,500 coming from businesses.

Of the submitted applications, 10,304 have been approved, for a total of $671 million.

Freeland said it’s not uncommon for people to request an application even as they’re still waiting to see how much their insurance will cover and what other types of aid they’ll need.

“What happens in a disaster is people try to decide what avenue they want to take, so we do have quite a bit of applications out,” she said. “We were hoping for more returns at this point, but sometimes, again, people may wait on insurance.”

However, Freeland said submitting an application doesn’t lock one in to taking SBA loans, so she said it makes sense to apply, even as a backup plan.

“That’s been our whole message,” she said. “Even if you don’t think you need the loan we still encourage you to apply because if you’re approved you can still have the funds readily available.”

Under the program, businesses are eligible for up to $2 million in low-interest loans to repair or replace real estate, inventory, equipment or other physical losses.

Homeowners can get up to $200,000 to repair or replace real property, and homeowners or renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to replace or repair personal property.

Applications and more information can be found at www.sba.gov. The agency also has established a hotline for questions about SBA’s disaster assistance programs. The phone number is (800) 659-2955.

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