Gov't offers help to small businesses hit by I-5 bridge collapse

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - The Small Business Administrati0n announced Friday it is making low-interest disaster loans available to small businesses hit in the pocketbook by the collapse of the Interstate 5 bridge in Skagit County.

The declaration covers Skagit County and the adjoining counties of Chelan, Island, Okanogan, Snohomish and Whatcom.

Karen Mills, administrator of the U. S. Small Business Administration, says the agency acted under its own authority to declare a disaster in response to a request it received from Gov. Jay Inslee.

Many small businesses in Mount Vernon and the surrounding area sustained financial losses after the I-5 Skagit River bridge collapsed on May 23. A replacement span opened on June 18.

"We will be swift in our efforts to help these small businesses recover from the financial impacts of this disaster," said Mills.

The agency's Disaster Loan Outreach Center opened Friday at 204 West Montgomery in Mount Vernon and will remain open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. through July 11. The office will be closed on Thursday, July 4.

Representatives will be on hand at the center to issue loan applications, answer questions about the economic injury disaster loan program, explain the application process and help each individual complete their application, said SBA's Seattle District Director Nancy Porzio.

No appointment is necessary, and all services are free.

Loans of up to $2 million are available to help small businesses meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred, Porzio said.

"These loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can't be paid because of the disaster's impact. Disaster loans can provide vital economic assistance to small businesses to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue they are experiencing," she said.

Eligibility is based on the financial impact of the disaster only and not on any actual property damage. The loans have an interest rate of 4 percent for small businesses and 2.875 percent for private, nonprofit organizations, with terms up to 30 years, and are restricted to small businesses without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.

The deadline to return economic injury applications is March 27, 2014. More information is available by calling (800) 659-2955. Individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may call (800) 877-8339.