BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) – The Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Relief Lending Center in Otsego County closed on Tuesday. He offered loans at relatively low interest rates to homeowners and businesses affected by this summer’s flooding.

But taking out a disaster loan isn’t necessarily the most affordable or accessible option for all residents.

In Morris, New York, floodwaters eroded entire sections of the riverbank near residents’ homes. (Jillian Forstadt / WSKG)

A race against nature

Marie Gupil, who lives in the village of Morris, hopes the SBA’s disaster loan program will help her pay for some of the damage to her property. At the very least, she’ll use the federal loan to pay off another loan, which she pulled out of her 401K in order to begin repairs.

“I took a loan on my 401K because I have to charge it,” Gupil said. “It is to be done.”

Gupil’s cellar was inundated with water after severe storms flooded Reservoir Brook, which runs through Morris and borders Gupil’s house. The new furnace she bought last year and the electrical box need to be replaced.

As of Monday, Gupil had not learned whether she had been accepted into the SBA loan program. In the meantime, she hired a crew to repair the creek bank, a $ 10,000 project.

The floodwaters rotted the metal cages that held a foundation made of rocks and pebbles to prevent further erosion of the bank. Gupil first added them to her house after the June 2006 floods, in which she lost part of the land between her house and the stream.

There was almost 2 feet of grass between his house and the bank of the stream. Today, there is no land between the stone foundations of his house and the cages protecting the bank.

“It’s like a race against Mother Nature,” Gupil said.

Gupil said she didn’t want to start repairs inside her house until she knew the outside perimeter was secure.

Avoid another unforeseen expense

SBA loans for homeowners can cover up to $ 40,000 of destroyed property like appliances, and up to $ 200,000 to repair or replace homes, with interest rates as low as 1.625% for homeowners. .

After the number of applicants in and around Morris declined, SBA officials said, the agency decided to close its outreach center.

For some residents, however, taking out a loan was always a last resort. Like flood damage, loans come with unexpected costs and carry interest.

“I don’t want to go into debt for something I could get a grant for,” said Marilyn Roveland.

Roveland, who has lived in his home next to Reservoir Brook for 40 years, has recovered from several flooding in recent decades.

But Roveland is 80 years old and lives alone. His finances are not always stable. Cleaning up after a flood is more difficult for her now.

“I went down and there’s four feet of water running down the stairs to my cellar, and I knew I couldn’t stand [it]”said Roveland.

(Jillian Forstadt / WSKG)

The flood she referred to happened in July and Roveland is still working to clean her house.

“So I applied to the USDA, for the elderly poor, which I am,” Roveland continued with a laugh.

Funding from USDA, or the United States Department of Agriculture, would come in the form of a grant, meaning Roveland could get the money she needs debt-free.

She submitted a 50-page request, although she is not sure at this point how long it will take for the money to arrive.

In the meantime, Roveland has received help from his family. Her brother-in-law came to fix her water heater, which broke in the flood.

“So I have hot water, but I hope to have a heater by the heating season,” Roveland said.

While many others also faced basement and cellar flooding, Michele Farwell, who represents Morris on the Otsego County Council of Representatives, said most of the damage was to lawns , alleys and farms.

“We have had people whose barns have been overturned,” said Farwell, who also represents Butternuts and Pittsfield, part of the largely rural strip of the county that was affected by the flooding this summer. “Lots of barns.”

According to the SBA’s website, however, its home and personal loans cannot cover “farm losses.” The agency’s program only covers damage to a resident’s main house and its contents, and has referred farmers to the USDA for help.

Total damage to the region did not meet the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) aid threshold.

Farwell said she was grateful for the SBA’s response to the region, but found that many voters decided not to take on another unforeseen expense.

“They were hoping that there would be some kind of help to cover the costs, and that a loan would be the last resort,” Farwell said.


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