Disaster Assistance

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The tornado that struck Newton on Dec. 19 did a lot of damage, but to this point the federal government has shown no signs of supplying storm victims with the means to repair or replace their property. That's where the small business administration's disaster assistance steps in.

"We do have word business in our name and we are a part of the Small Business Administration that most people are familiar with. However, the office of disaster assistance provides loans to homeowners and renters who were affected by the disaster. The main criteria for the program is that you were affected by the tornado," said SBA loan office Rodney Jones.

The SBA is providing these low-interest loans to storm victims for damaged homes, businesses, automobiles, and economic injury sustained in the storms. Loans are available to residents of Newton County and the eight surrounding counties of Clarke, Jasper, Kemper, Lauderdale, Leake, Neshoba, Scott and Smith.

"We'll be here for at least the next couple of weeks. If we stay busy during that period then we will certainly stay here longer to make sure that everyone that needs to see us," said Jones.

Newton officials have been set up inside City Hall in the aftermath of the storm. From there they are directing people in need of help to the SBA loan program. Meanwhile, even with the state assistance, residents in Newton say they are still hoping that federal money will also be appropriated to help.

"We're hoping to hear this week from FEMA that maybe we'll be declared a disaster area and get some federal assistance to help up with our damages," said Newton Fire Chief Jerry Bounds.

To find out if you qualify for a Small Business Association loan, call the SBA helpline at 1-800-359-2227.

The filing deadline for physical damage to homes, personal property, and businesses is February 24, 2003, and economic injury claims must be files by September 24, 2003.