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SBA extending disaster center until Thursday; Mill fire business loans available.

Byline: Elaine Thompson

WHITINSVILLE - The federal Small Business Administration has extended its disaster loan outreach center to help those affected by the devastating Bernat Mill fire in Uxbridge until at least the close of business Thursday.

The fire displaced 65 small businesses that had rented space in the 350,000-square-foot, three-story former yarn mill, and about 300 employees. About 600 firefighters from 60 communities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island fought the fire.

The Disaster Loan Outreach Center originally opened at Whitin Middle School, but moved last week to the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce, 110 Church St., 2nd floor, Whitinsville.

Kathy Cook, government relations specialist with the SBA's Atlanta-based Office of Disaster Assistance Field Operations Center, said the agency decided to keep the center open until Thursday to give people more time to apply for loans.

Ms. Cook said she and the five customer service representatives from Atlanta have contacted most of the affected businesses, but the volume of application returns is very low. She said the SBA had issued six home loan applications and 43 business loan applications as of Aug. 2. Eight business loan applications and no home loan applications have been returned. She said the office will stay open at least until Thursday and possibly longer, if needed.

"If the volume picks up, our managers will tell us to stay longer. If not, they normally fly us back to Atlanta on Friday," Ms. Cook said.

The deadline for individuals and businesses to apply for a disaster loan to cover the physical damages is Sept. 21. Home loans are for anybody who lost personal property stored at the mill, or if their vehicles were damaged, and for people in the range of the mill who suffered smoke or water damage from the fire.

"A lot of people may not know that. They may think that they had to be a business owner in the building," Ms. Cook said.

She said owners of small businesses that were not damaged but experienced a decline in business because of the fire may also apply under SBA's Economic Injury Disaster loan program. Those business owners have until April 23, 2008, to apply for loans because it may take some time before they can determine the impact of the Bernat Mill fire on their business, Ms. Cook said.

She said the eligible loan amount is the difference between the total damages and the amount recovered from insurance. Interest rates for home or personal loans range from 2.875 percent to 5.75 percent; and 4 percent to 8 percent for business loans. She said more than 90 percent qualify for the lowest rate. The length of the loan is based on a person's repayment ability.

"Some people may have five-year loans, or as long as a 30-year loan if necessary," she said.
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Aug 5, 2007
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