FEMA Update: Lions Club Pago presents special awards to FEMA officials
Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has approved more than $14 million under the Individual Assistance program while the US Small Business Administration has approved just over $2 million in low-interest disaster loans for those who were affected by Tropical Storm Gita earlier this year in February.
FEMA and SBA officials stressed that the close of business on May 1st, next Tuesday, is the deadline to submit an application for federal assistance. Anyone with questions about their application or the registration process at the Disaster Recovery Center, inside the DYWA Pago Pago Youth Center, can call the Helpline at 699-2018.
FEMA public information officer, Victor Inge said that at the close of business on Apr. 23rd, the total approved for individual household program — Individual Assistance — was $14.2 million and “most of that is for housing assistance” at $9.7 million and $4.5 million for “other needs assistance” program.
Other needs are “items essential to the home, things that were damaged or destroyed, that were essential elements in the home, such as...bed, stove,” he said in a Samoa News interview yesterday.
According to him, as of Apr. 23rd, a total of 7,246 people have already registered at the DRC, where SBA also has staff to assist the community.
He explained that because there are no street addresses in American Samoa, the ASG came up with the pre-registration process at the village level where people were given a tag number “so we can identify where the house is and who lives there” during the DRC registration process and the follow-up FEMA inspection.
“Now, it’s just picking up people who have been missed during the pre-registration so they can come to the DRC to register,” said Inge, who added that if a person impacted by the storm didn’t get a chance to pre-register they can come directly to the DRC to pre-register and then register at the same time, all under one roof.
“We don’t want to miss anyone,” he said, and noted that there have been 9,368 visitors to the DRC and some of them have come more than once, because they may have had to provide additional documents, or they had questions.
He said everyone who visits the DRC is counted.
As of the close of business on Monday this week, the SBA had approved $2.3 million in low interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, private-non profits, and businesses, according to SBA public information officer, Yolanda Stokes, during a Samoa News interview with Inge.
“That’s an aggregate total of the loans that we’ve approved for all segments of the community — folks that were affected by the storm,” she said and noted that “we continue to process these loans as quickly as we can — as quickly as we receive them.”
Both Stokes and Inge emphasized the deadline to submit an application, so no one misses out. “We’re encouraging everyone to please complete their SBA loan application…we are nearing the deadline,” Stokes said.
“We want people to complete the application, even if they don’t think they’ll need a loan,” she continued. “Because often times, as people begin their rebuilding process or reconstruction they find that they need additional monies and we wouldn’t want them to miss out on applying for SBA, as they could possibly get some additional disaster recovery funds.”
If some disaster survivors are still reluctant to apply for a SBA loan, Stokes reiterated the following points:
• These loans are low interest, they start at 1.813% for home loans; 2.5% for private-non profit; 3.58% for businesses;
• Of the low interest loans, we also have a term of up to 30 years and there’s also a little known component in that all disaster loans have an automatic deferment on the first loan payment. No loan payment for the first five months;
“So we want people to know — go ahead and apply for the loan. If you find you don’t need the loan, you can cancel it, or if you find that you need additional funds then you can work with your loan officer on possibly getting an increase in the loan amount,” she explained.
And “I think a lot of people don’t realize that there’s an automatic loan deferment payment built in,” she said. “Those are some of the tools that we use to make these disaster loans affordable."
While the deadline for submission of applications is the close of business on May 1st, the DRC will still be open, but with scaled back staff, according to Inge and Stokes.