Feds declare LA disaster area

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SBA: Set to assist organizations economically impacted by Las Conchas Fire

Eight northern New Mexico counties that suffered economic devastation by this summer’s Las Conchas Fire are eligible for assistance from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The SBA acted under its own authority to declare the region a disaster area following a Sept. 9 request from Gov. Susana Martinez. The federal disaster declaration enables the SBA to offer low-interest, federal disaster loans to local small businesses and private, non-profit organizations that were economically impacted by the fire, which officially burned from June 26-Aug. 3.  

The declaration includes the counties of Los Alamos, Sandoval, Bernalillo, Cibola, McKinley, Rio Arriba, San Juan and Santa Fe, said U.S.-SBA spokesman Mark Randle, in town Thursday to talk about the program.
Randle met with business owners in Los Alamos and White Rock and spent time with Director Don Wright of the Los Alamos Small Business Development Center and with Chamber Member Services Coordinator Katy Korkos.

“The damage from the Las Conchas Fire isn’t over yet – people are still trying to catch up,” Korkos said.
She explained that the Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation established an emergency fund following the Cerro Grande Fire, which had remained untapped until July.

“Los Alamos National Bank has issued $639,000 in loans to small businesses since the Las Conchas Fire at a low 4 percent interest rate and the LACDC used money from its emergency fund to pay that 4 percent interest for the businesses,” Korkos said. “More than a dozen local businesses have participated in our program, which allows us to pay that interest for 90 days. The wonderful thing about the SBA disaster assistance program is that it can loan money to businesses for up to 30 years.”  

The SBA disaster assistance loan is tied to economic impact rather than physical damage from the fire, Wright said.

“If a person thinks they’ve suffered economic loss, it doesn’t cost anything to apply and there’s no obligation,” he said. “They can come through our office and we’ll be happy to help them through the process.”

The loans are created to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses, which could have been met, had the disaster not occurred, Randle said.

The loans are designed to:
• Pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.
• Have a 4 percent interest rate for small businesses and a 3 percent interest rate for private, nonprofit organizations.
• May have up to 30-year terms.

“Eligibility for the SBA disaster loan program is based on the financial impact of the disaster only and not on property damage,” Randle said.

For further information, contact Wright at the SBDC at 661-4803, 190 Central Park Square #118.