3 storm-torn counties are disaster area


Three lower Eastern Shore counties have been declared a disaster area by the federal Small Business Administration, a designation that could benefit business and property owners who suffered damage in the Jan. 4 northeaster.

The declaration means that residents of Worcester, Somerset and Wicomico counties may now be eligible for low-interest loans to cover the costs of uninsured damage from the storm's high winds and coastal flooding.

Residents who suffered storm damage may borrow up to $100,000 to repair their primary homes, plus up to $20,000 for lost or damaged personal property. Vacation homes are not eligible for the program.

Businesses may qualify for loans up to $500,000 at interest rates that vary between 4 percent and 8.5 percent.

Ocean City and West Ocean City in Worcester County bore the brunt of the storm in Maryland. Somerset and Wicomico counties qualified for aid as adjoining counties.

"I'm sure there will be some people who lost property who will put in for low-cost loans," said Ocean City Mayor Roland "Fish" Powell. "Some of our merchants lost stock -- one of the arcades lost $250,000 in machines. I'm sure those places will be in line."

"It's a very needed opportunity for those who have had property damage," said Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzus, R-Somerset. "I'm dTC delighted they're going to do it."

Senator Stoltzfus said an area needed 25 affected businesses to qualify for the aid and that 26 had signed up before the state even began investigating the procedure.

Delaware beaches farther north suffered much more serious damage. Sussex County, Delaware and Ackomack County, Virginia, also qualified for the SBA program.

The state is not expected to apply for relief from the Federal Emergency Management Administration because relatively few people were affected.

Applications for the SBA loans will be accepted through March 27 for physical damage and until Oct. 27 for economic injury. Temporary SBA Disaster Division offices will open Thursday at the City Hall in Ocean City and at Rehoboth Beach Town Hall in Delaware.

Applications may also be made to the U.S. Small Business Administration, Disaster Area 2 Office, One Baltimore Place, Suite 300, Atlanta, Ga. 30308. The toll-free number is 1-800-334-0309.

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