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SBA's new West Mifflin office brings hope for relief

| Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013, 4:41 a.m.
Patrick Cloonan | Daily News
U.S. Small Business Administration customer service representatives Allen Jaggard and Jennifer Peycha-Swartz set up shop at Allegheny County Airport.

An older couple was the first in line on Wednesday to seek out the Small Business Administration's customer service representatives at Allegheny County Airport.

“I was looking online today and I got so confused,” said the wife, seated next to her husband in the main terminal of the West Mifflin airport.

Representatives Jennifer Peycha-Swartz and Allen Jaggard will seek to answer questions from residents of six counties affected by floods.

At the request of Gov. Tom Corbett, SBA will provide loans at interest rates as low as 1.875 percent for victims who can't get credit elsewhere.

That includes coverage of physical damage and, for businesses, economic injury.

Peycha-Swartz and Jaggard said the latter includes the impact when storms interrupt the income stream for a business still facing salary, rent and other payments and additional debt for needed repairs.

They said the loans are a bridge for businesses until they can get back to normal.

Areas eligible under the declaration announced on Monday include Allegheny and five contiguous counties, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland.

Those who can't get credit elsewhere can get home loans at an interest rate of 1.875 percent, business loans at 4 percent and nonprofit organization loans at 2.875 percent.

Those who can get credit elsewhere can get loans at rates of 3.75 percent for homes, 6 percent for businesses and 2.875 percent for nonprofit organizations.

Rates for economic injury loans where credit is not available are 4 percent for businesses and small agricultural cooperatives and 2.875 percent for non-profit organizations.

Through Aug. 8 the County Airport SBA office will open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., but close on Sunday.

Allegheny and Washington are among 14 counties that could get disaster declarations from President Barack Obama, under a request from the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency to its federal counterpart.

“The governor asked (Federal Emergency Management Agency) for a presidential disaster declaration for public assistance, which is for infrastructure damage,” said Philip G. Barker, director of PEMA's Western Area Office in Indiana. “We're still receiving damage information from those counties.”

His office handles 24 of the state's 67 counties including Allegheny, Fayette, Washington, Clearfield, Crawford, Jefferson, Lawrence and Venango on the list covered by the governor's request. Centre, Clinton, Huntingdon, Lackawanna, Schuylkill and Wayne also are on that list.

Barker said there have been requests from other counties as well, including at least one municipality each in Beaver and Somerset counties.

In a Harrisburg office FEMA has been working jointly with PEMA since last year's Superstorm Sandy. Much of the impact of that storm was east of the Susquehanna River but Barker said there were problems further west, including numerous power outages.

Recent problems in Allegheny County date from storms on July 10. Emergency declarations were made in the past month in at least 12 Allegheny municipalities, including Elizabeth, Jefferson Hills, Lincoln and West Elizabeth.

Public officials in affected areas are welcoming whatever aid is extended.

“The storms of July 10 were devastating to many residents and small business owners,” said Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, whose district includes Jefferson Hills. “This (SBA) assistance is crucial to helping communities bounce back and rebuild.”

Those who can't get to the County Airport office can call SBA at 800-659-2955, email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov or visit www.sba.gov.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161, ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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