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Federal agency reaches out to home, business owners in wake of North Bend explosion
North Bend businesses and homes are slowly recovering from the April 25 explosion that destroyed three buildings on North Bend Way and affected 50 others. Some, like the North Bend Shell station, seem almost back to normal. Some, like the Mount Si Court Apartments across the street are approaching normal since lots of cleanup work and new windows were installed. Some closest to the blast, like Michelle Dunbar’s now-homeless Kutters salon and Lisa Riley’s planned restaurant, may never be the same.
Restoring all of them, though, is the goal of the Small Business Administration Office of Disaster Assistance, which opened a Disaster Loan Outreach Center this week in North Bend.
Offering low-interest loans financed directly by the SBA, “We try to get them back to pre-disaster condition,” says Garth MacDonald, spokesperson for the disaster assistance group, “and any business, homeowner, or renter that was affected is eligible to apply.”
The outreach center, operating through May 29 in the North Bend City Hall Conference Room, is a resource for everyone recovering from the explosion, not just businesses, MacDonald said, and not just people without insurance. People can even use loan money to pay their insurance deductibles, he said.
Assistance is mainly in the form of loans, although businesses are also encouraged to use the information and advice available from Washington Small Business Development Centers at Green River Community College Campuses in Auburn and Kent.
The loan process is like a traditional bank loan with important differences. A big change is that people don’t need to know how much they need in advance, MacDonald said. “They have over a year” to fully assess their situations and decide what they need. Once approved, borrowers can also request more funds over time, for instance if an insurance payment is lower than expected, or the cost of rebuilding a home increases because of problems with the site.
“The eligible loss, less any insurance recovery, is what we could loan for,” MacDonald said.
For businesses, there is also another loan option, for the concept of economic injury, or the revenue a business might have earned when it was closed for repairs.
North Bend City Administrator Londi Lindell, who lobbied for the emergency declaration and enlisted Governor Jay Inslee’s aid to get it, is hoping businesses will at least explore their options through the SBA programs.
“We’re kind of worried about the business owners that were impacted,” she said, adding that the outreach center assistance “is not just to rebuild the business, but also to cover your opportunity loss while your doors were shuttered.”
Staff at the outreach center can help people determine if they qualify for a loan, the potential loan amount, and help them complete loan applications, but it’s not necessary to visit the outreach center. Applications and other information are available online at www.sba.gov, on the Disaster Assistance page.
It is necessary to apply soon, though. The deadline for disaster assistance loans to cover physical damage is July 18, and the deadline for economic injury loan applications is February 19, 2015. The loan outreach center is open 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays through Thursday, May 29, in the conference room at North Bend City Hall, 211 Main Ave. North.