A federal assistance center for wildfire victims in Luther is scheduled to close later this month.
The August wildfires charred more than 100,000 acres across Oklahoma. In the Luther area 2,621 acres burned, according to the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management. Dozens of structures were damaged or destroyed.
Chris Hill, pastor of the Luther Church of Christ, said some victims have relocated to temporary living quarters and new homes are not yet rising on burned properties. But victims are getting assistance and moods are improving.
“People are cheering up,” he said.
Hill said it was sad to see all of the destruction, but it was good to see the community come together and ask: How can I help? Many Luther residents, including members of Hill’s church, have been helping their less fortunate neighbors. Hill said members of his flock have been helping a nearby mechanic recover from the destruction. Residents from other communities in the area have also donated time and possessions to the recovery effort.
“Some of our best donations have been from Edmond,” Hill said, adding it’s good to have the city as a neighbor.
Victims appreciate all of the various forms of support they have received, Hill said.
On Oct. 1, the Small Business Administration announced that low interest federal disaster loans were available to Oklahoma residents and businesses affected by the Luther wildfire that occurred from Aug. 3-10.
The SBA acted under its own authority to declare a disaster following the denial on Sept. 27 of the state’s request for a major disaster declaration. It made SBA assistance available in Canadian, Cleveland, Kingfisher, Lincoln, Logan, Oklahoma and Pottawatomie counties.
SBA Oklahoma District Director Dorothy Overal said the action meant the loans were available to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private, nonprofit organizations harmed by the fires.
On Oct. 3, SBA representatives were on hand at an agency outreach center in the Luther Town Hall, 119 S. Main St. It is tentatively scheduled to close permanently Oct. 18. If you want person-to-person help that’s the best way to go, SBA spokeswoman Cynthia Cowell said.
An SBA loan outreach center at the Stillwater Community Center, 315 W. Eighth St., is also tentatively scheduled to permanently close on Oct. 18.
Cowell said the agency wants to remind wildfire victims that assistance is available.
“These come directly from the feds,” Cowell said. “You don’t have to go to a bank to apply for them. There is no cost to apply.”
Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, Cowell said. Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property, and that includes cars.
Businesses of any size and private nonprofit organizations may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery, equipment, inventory and other business assets. Economic injury assistance is available to business owners if their customer base isn’t coming in, Howell said.
The SBA can also lend additional funds to homeowners and businesses to help with the cost of making improvements that protect, prevent or minimize the same type of disaster damage from occurring in the future.
Interest rates can be as low as 1.688 percent for homeowners and renters, 3 percent for private non-profit organizations and 4 percent for businesses with terms up to 30 years. Loan amounts are set by the SBA based on each applicant’s financial condition.
Applicants may also apply at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela. The filing deadline to return applications for property damage is Nov. 30, and the deadline to return economic injury applications is July 1, 2013.
For more information about SBA loans, visit www.sba.gov. Applicants may also call to receive paperwork from the SBA customer service center at 800-659-2955.
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