SBA Loans Help Sandy Victims

By Michael Hill

58 Chestnut Street, Weehawken — not just home to Tracey Vavrecan but where she grew up and where she watched her street become a river thanks to Sandy.

“My first floor was demolished. My furniture was a mess. My refrigerator was laying across the kitchen floor. I was fairly lucky in that my sentimental value stuff survived, but my whole first floor was gone,” she said.

Tracey says by the time she realized flood insurance money would fall short of covering the whole cost to rebuild and she had run up a lot of credit card debt, it was too late to apply for a low-interest Small Business Administration loan.

“You think, I have a flood, everything is covered and there’s not everything covered and you don’t realize that until you have a disaster,” she said.

“Tracey literally had to swim out of her Weehawken home to escape the flood waters,” said Sen. Bob Menendez.

Today Menendez mentioned Tracey and others who survived Sandy and suffered hardship in rebuilding, including Battaglia Home Furnishings in Hoboken where Menendez announced more help for folks like Tracey.

“To this day many are struggling to pick up the pieces and now thanks to my law New Jersey homeowners and business owner impacted by Sandy will have another year to apply for low interest loans through the Small Business Administration,” Menendez said.

There’s more than $16 million available in six states; $5.6 million available in New Jersey since this second round opened in December. Fixed-rate, 1.6 percent, long-term loans to homeowners who have until December first to apply.

Tracey says that in December 2015 she went online and applied. It took about 40 minutes. After that there was an SBA visit to her home and then on Jan. 6 she says the government made a direct deposit to her account.

“It was very quick. Everybody was extremely helpful. This was the easiest loan application I’ve ever done in my life,” Tracey said.

Tracey says she’ll use the money to pay down her credit card debt.

The SBA and the senator explained that such loans are not a duplication of benefits to folks who got grants to rebuild because borrowers have to pay back the loans but not so for grants.

The SBA says it wants folks to apply and not disqualify themselves.

“Don’t count yourself out. Don’t think my credit’s not good enough, I don’t have repayment ability, I can’t afford another loan, because the SBA’s loans are very affordable,” said Kathy Cook.

The SBA says it can lend money to homeowners when the president declares a federal disaster so its name is somewhat of a misnomer so why not change the name to the Small Business and Home Administration.