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FEMA, SBA Disaster Assistance Deadlines Extended Through January

Connecticut residents affected by Hurricane Sandy have an extra month to apply for assistance and grants, though Congress failed to vote on a relief package Wednesday.

Those affected by Hurricane Sandy who may have been dragging their feet on the disaster assistance application process are in luck. The deadlines for fiscal damage applications through both FEMA and the U.S. Small Business Administration have been extended to January 28, 2013.

A majority of residents who registered for assistance through FEMA grants also received U.S. Small Business Administration applications to go through their loan process. The deadline for completion and return of those loan applications have been extended. 

"Late in the process, there were still a lot of people concerned with their well being rather than going after loans," said Deputy District Director of the Connecticut SBA Office Julio Casiano. "People were delayed in applying for all sorts of reasons. Lots of the requests for more time were coming from applicants themselves, people who were saying they were not yet prepared to apply. People were still working on their homes and businesses were preoccupied with just finding a way to be open."

Casiano said New York and New Jersey also received extensions for both FEMA grants and SBA loans, and said the granting of additional time was somewhat exceptional in itself as deadlines like these are typically "etched in stone."

"The SBA is loan program and the last thing many people wanted to be doing was to be sitting down applying for loans," Casiano said. "Even if residents are going through their insurance or using the loan process as a last resort, we urge them to finish their paperwork and send it to us. There is no obligation to accept a loan, but if you do not get it turned in on time, that window closes."

SBA Public Affairs Specialist Tom Nocera, currently assisting with efforts in Windsor, echoed the sentiment of not waiting.

"Don't wait for your insurance to close," Nocera said. "Make sure to send in your application and reserve the right to tap into those funds for help funding your recovery. The idea is to have a fallback position in case insurance doesn't cover everything or, in the event insurance is slow to close, you have a means to start your recovery and can settle the difference when everything wraps up."

Casiano also distinguished the two types of assistance available through the SBA program. Fiscal damages are losses suffered in a material capacity, he said, and include things like structural damage to a building. For businesses suffering from losses classified as "economic injury," things like drops in revenue due to extended closure or lack of customer traffic, the loan application process will be running through July 31.

"Instances of, say, a 20-percent drop in business are going to take weeks and months to calculate, so you have until July to get a handle on those numbers and submit an application," Casiano said. "Businesses can apply for both types of loans through the SBA."

Returning an application is win-win for the applicant because if they are denied a loan, they can still have the application returned to FEMA for the possibility of grant money. Residents are urged to look for more information at DisasterAssistance.gov, SBA.gov/Sandy or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA.

On Wednesday Governor Dannel P. Malloy urged Congress to vote on a Hurricane Sandy relief package. He submitted a letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner calling for action.

"Your decision to postpone consideration of a disaster supplemental until after the 113th Congress commences likely delays delivery of relief for months, and therefore delays the process of rebuilding from Sandy," Governor Malloy wrote. "It sends a terrible message to the citizens of the affected states that the leadership of the House of Representatives feels no sense of urgency, with winter upon us, to aid fellow citizens in their great time of need as the Congress has done time and again when other natural disasters have devastated communities elsewhere in the country."

When Congress adjourned session Wednesday without addressing any type of relief package, Malloy tweeted the decision was "unconscionable & stunning."

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