‘We’re saving every penny’: Polk tornado victims hoping for federal loan assistance

Polk County

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A homeowner in the Kathleen area of Lakeland says a federal loan is her only option to rebuild.

“Pretty much all of this was the living room then the kitchen was over here,” said Linda Wright, pointing to the concrete slab that used to be her home.

She has lived on that lot on Publix Road for more than 40 years.

On the night of Oct 18th, she knew the storm was more than just the typical Florida thunderstorm.

“I said ‘Bill, we got to get out of here. And the whole house disappeared right after I said that,” she remembered.

Wright’s home was one of the more than 50 that was either destroyed or sustained major damage in the EF2 tornado.

“Put one foot in front of the other. So far that seems to be getting me where I have to go,” she said.

It hasn’t been easy, especially considering the fact that Wright was unable to buy homeowners’ insurance.

“Hoping that we can get the small business loan and that we can get a builder who will come out here and build us something we can afford,” she said.

She applied online for a low-interest loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“I feel pretty confident. It will be exciting if it comes through, absolutely,” she said.

Others applied in person at the SBA’s Disaster Loan Outreach Center at the Salvation Army on Kathleen Road.

It opened on Friday.

“We’ve been staying in a motel. I have family help. Other than that, I haven’t got any help except for one week from the Salvation Army,” said Susan Malcuit.

The content of Malcuit’s Sunnyside Dr. apartment was destroyed when the tornado ripped off part of the roof.

“[I would use the loan] to replace everything that was destroyed inside my apartment. My bed was covered,” she said.

Business owners, homeowners, and renters, like Malcuit, are eligible to apply for the federal loan.

People who sustained damage are encouraged to apply ahead of the January 13, 2020 deadline for applying for loans related to property damage.

“If we approve you for the loan, you can choose to put the loan on hold, you can choose to accept it. That way, you’ve got, if you put it on hold, you have up to six months to activate it,” said Ray Harbour, public information officer for the Small Business Administration.

Eligibility and credit requirements do apply.

SBA regulations limit home loans to $200,000 for the repair or replacement of real estate and $40,000 to repair or replace personal property.

The Center will be open from Nov. 15 through Nov. 26.

Hours are as follows:

Monday – Friday 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Saturdays 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Sundays Closed
Tuesday, Nov. 26 Closes at 4:30 p.m.

People can also apply online here or by calling SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance.

Applications must be filed by January 13, 2020 for physical damage and August 13, 2020 for economic injury.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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