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SBA shutting six disaster centers as Sandy application deadline looms

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The U.S. Small Business Administration announced it is closing half a dozen disaster centers in New Jersey this week due to a steady decrease in activity six months after Hurricane Sandy made landfall.

The disaster center in the Cape May Court House section of Middle Township will close at the end of business Tuesday. Belmar, Manahawkin, Lincroft and Plainfield will close Wednesday, and Margate will close Thursday.

The agency is encouraging those who suffered losses as a result of Sandy to visit one of the centers before they close, as the deadline to return applications for physical damage is May 1.

“We did not make this decision (to close the centers) lightly,” said Tom Nocera, public affairs specialist for the SBA. “It was made based on an analysis of traffic in each location. Traffic is winding down, and it doesn’t make economic sense to have staff there.”

The initial deadline to submit applications was Dec. 31, and it has extended month by month since then, but there will be no more extensions past May 1, Nocera said.

Six months into the recovery process, the amount of new disaster loan applications received has gone from several hundred a day at the peak to about 18 a day statewide, Nocera said. To date, the SBA has received 24,286 applications from homeowners; 5,008 from business with physical damage and 815 from businesses with no physical damage, but claims for economic injury.

Nocera said that there is no requirement to accept a loan if it is approved, but people should apply to have it in place to fall back on if other financing falls through.

“In the initial weeks after a disaster, a lot of people are in shock, paralyzed almost, trying to figure out what to do,” he said. “After that, they are waiting for insurance settlements if they have insurance, not wanting to confront the fact that they might have to borrow money to repair their homes. It takes time for that realization to set in.”

Those who wish to apply may use the electronic loan application on the SBA's website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. Disaster loan information and application forms may also be obtained by calling the SBA's customer service center at (800) 659-2955 or by sending an e-mail to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov. Loan applications can be downloaded from www.sba.gov.

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