NEWARK, N.J. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.) today reminded New Jersey homeowners and businesses devastated by Superstorm Sandy that the Dec. 1, 2016 deadline is fast-approaching to apply for low-interest federal disaster loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to assist their recovery.  Survivors may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

“This new round of federal assistance through the SBA is helping New Jerseyans get back on their feet and move the state closer to full recovery from Sandy, but time is running out to take advantage of this limited opportunity for low-interest, long-term loans that can help finish repairs to homes and businesses damaged by the storm,” said Sen. Menendez.  “More than four years since Superstorm Sandy, there is still much work that needs to be done for struggling families and businesses to fully recover, and I will continue to fight for them until the job is done.”

“New Jerseyans have now worked diligently for over four years to put our state back together and navigate the lengthy rebuilding process in the wake of Superstorm Sandy,” said Sen. Booker. “I was proud to join Sen. Menendez in urging the re-opening of the Small Business Administration’s Sandy loan application period, and as a result, over one thousand families and small businesses have now been granted loans to help continue the recovery process.  As the final deadline to participate in this program approaches on December 1st, I urge New Jersey homeowners, renters and small businesses still struggling with the effects of Superstorm Sandy to apply.”

Through the SBA’s program, homeowners can receive up to $200,000 to repair or replace structural losses, and $40,000 for personal property losses.  Businesses can apply for up to $2 million to cover losses to physical property, equipment, inventory and economic injury due to business interruption.

Sen. Menendez authored the Superstorm Sandy Relief and Disaster Loan Program Improvement Act to extend, expand and improve access to federal disaster loans through the SBA, after its program for Sandy victims originally expired in 2013.  With many Sandy survivors having already exhausted their available assistance or continuing to wait for RREM rebuilding grants and full flood insurance payouts, they now have the peace of mind that low-interest loans are available to fill any remaining unmet needs.  The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Booker and Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand (both D-N.Y), was passed and signed into law on November 25, 2015.

In the past year since the eligibility period was reopened, SBA has approved a combined $52,183,900 in new, low-interest, federal disaster loans to home and business owners impacted by Sandy, including $24,386,800 in New Jersey. 

Interest rates are as low as 1.688% for homeowners and renters, 3% for non-profit organizations and 4% for businesses with terms up to 30 years.  Loan amounts and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.

Disaster loan information and application forms may also be obtained by calling the SBA’s Customer Service Center at 800-659-2955 (800-877-8339 for the deaf and hard-of-hearing) or by sending an email to disastercustomerservice@sba.gov.  Loan applications can be downloaded from the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/disaster.  Completed applications should be mailed to: U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155. 

Superstorm Sandy Relief and Disaster Loan Program Improvement Act of 2015:

·        Reopens Sandy Disaster Assistance Applications

There are Sandy survivors who did not apply for disaster loans, due to: inaccurate information, a preference for grants, duplication of benefits concerns, etc.  Many others believed their flood insurance proceeds and federal grants would address their unmet needs, but now find they do not have the resources to rebuild.  For these reasons, the bill requires SBA to reopen the Sandy disaster assistance loan program for one year. 

·        Safe Rooms

Use of physical damage loans to mitigate future damages from disasters is limited to protection of property.  This section expands the permitted uses of physical damage loans to include safe rooms to protect from tornadoes.

·        Reduces Closing and Disbursement Delays

In response to avoidable delays caused by applicants not including all materials with their initial application by requiring SBA to inform applicants that submitting all application materials initially will result in faster processing times.

·        Disaster Plan Improvements

In response to long application processing times, SBA is required to revise its disaster response plan and develop plans to mitigate sharp increases in applications.

The Superstorm Sandy Relief and Disaster Loan Program Improvement Act represents just the latest federal effort lead by Sen. Menendez to address the issues arising in the aftermath of Sandy, and to aide New Jersey’s recovery.  In 2013, he shepherded the original $60 billion federal Sandy aid package through Congress.  His Homeowner’s Flood Insurance Affordability Act was signed into law in 2014 to address skyrocketing rates many Sandy survivors were encountering.  He has chaired the Sandy Task Force, with Sens. Booker, Schumer and Gillibrand, exploring short- and long-term reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program.  During Congressional hearings he chaired, Sen. Menendez first exposed the problem of widespread lowballing of flood insurance claims and, earlier this year, successfully pushed FEMA to reopen every Sandy flood insurance claim for review