CARTERET COUNTY — In a Wednesday press release, the U.S. Small Business Association announced Carteret County was one of a handful of counties given access to low-interest loans to address damage stemming from Hurricane Dorian, which struck in early September.

“Acting Administrator (Christopher) Pilkerton made the loans available in response to a letter from North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper on Oct. 11,” reads a portion of the release.

Participating counties include Carteret, Hyde, Dare and New Hanover.

“SBA’s Customer Service Representatives will be available at the Disaster Loan Outreach Centers to answer questions about the disaster loan program and help individuals complete their applications,” reads a portion of the press release.

Residents in the four counties can visit temporary offices opened at various locations. Carteret County’s offices are located at the Board of Elections office, 1702 Live Oak St., Beaufort.

The office will operate Monday-Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. The first day of operations will be Friday and the last will be Thursday, Oct. 31.

The declaration also applies to a number of adjacent counties whose residents may use the offices established in Carteret, Hyde, Dare and New Hanover. These include Beaufort, Brunswick, Craven, Currituck, Jones, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Tyrrell and Washington counties.

The SBA has been an ongoing presence in Carteret County since last year’s Hurricane Florence. The organization  worked in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide low-interest loans to residents affected by the storm.

“Interest rates are as low as 4 percent for businesses, 2.75 percent for nonprofit organizations, and 1.75 percent for homeowners and renters with terms up to 30 years,” reads the press release. “Loan amount and terms are set by the SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition.”

Despite its name, the SBA works with businesses and individuals. Loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners who sustained storm-related damage from Dorian, according to SBA Center Director Ken Fleming. Loans to cover storm-related mitigation may also be considered.

“Applicants may be eligible for a loan amount increase up to 20 percent of their physical damages, as verified by the SBA for mitigation purposes,” reads the press release. “Eligible mitigation improvements may include a safe room or storm shelter, sump pump, French drain or retaining wall to help protect property and occupants from future damage caused by a similar disaster.”

While Florence’s impact continues to be felt, Hurricane Dorian has been widely considered to have been less impactful. This assumption has made the search for disaster relief an uphill battle for state and local officials.

In Emerald Isle, town officials expected some sort of FEMA aid after sustaining damage from a tornado as Dorian approached the region. Earlier this month, they learned that federal officials decided not to earmark funds for individual assistance.

Gov. Cooper’s office is currently appealing the decision, while committing to seek alternative aid for North Carolinians impacted by Dorian.

Contact Dean-Paul Stephens at 252-726-7081, ext. 232; email Dean@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @DeanPEStephens.

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