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SBA declares Hawaii County disaster after Iselle

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    Road crews worked on clearing fallen trees from the main thoroughfares in Pahoa on Hawaii island after Tropical Storm Iselle.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has declared Hawaii County a disaster following Tropical Storm Iselle, making low-interest loans available for renters, homeowners, small businesses and nonprofit organizations that suffered damage in August.

The SBA opened an assistance center Wednesday at the Pahoa Community Center in the hard-hit Puna district to help people with applications, said SBA spokesman Gary Colton.

"We encourage people to apply whether they think they need a loan," Colton said. "If they don’t need it, they can say, ‘We don’t need the loan. Thanks for the offer.’"

Homeowners are eligible for 30-year fixed loans of 2.063 percent for up to $200,000 to rebuild or replace damaged homes, Colton said.

Renters can borrow up to $40,000 at the same terms to replace furniture, clothing, appliances and even damaged automobiles that were not fully insured, Colton said.

Businesses and nonprofits are eligible for loans of up to $2 million to repair buildings or replace damaged equipment and inventory. The rate of the loans would be 4 percent at 30 years.

Businesses and nonprofits do not have to have suffered property damage to qualify, Colton said.

They can get "a working capital loan to help them pay their bills until things return to normal," Colton said. "They have to show that revenues went down since the storm and are having difficulty meeting fixed costs like payments on buildings or other debts."

The loans can even be used to cover salaries "until things return to normal," Colton said.

Some 39 homes were reported heavily damaged or destroyed after Iselle hit Hawaii island on Aug. 8 and "260 people self-reported some degree of damage," county spokesman Kevin Dayton said.

The SBA’s declaration follows a decision by the Federal Emergency Manage­ment Agency to provide disaster assistance for Hawaii County, but not help for individuals and private companies.

But Colton said the bulk of federal financial assistance would have been provided by the SBA, anyway.

"We would have come along for the loan program," he said. "The money from SBA loans becomes the major portion … and homes are typically rebuilt under the SBA program."

The SBA’s Disaster Loan Outreach Center will be open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays at the Pahoa Community Center, 15-2910 Kauhale St.

The SBA will close the loan outreach center on Nov. 6. But applications will be accepted until Dec. 22.

"Once the window closes, it’s closed," Colton said.

Following the threat from Hurricane Ana on Sunday, Hawaii County Civil Defense officials continue to monitor a river of molten lava headed toward Pahoa Town in Puna.

The leading edge of the flow has now been surpassed by a "finger" of lava no more than 20 yards wide that Wednesday was 0.58 of a mile from Apaa Street and a critical waste and recycling transfer station, Civil Defense administrator Darryl Oliveira said.

While the original front of the flow continued to move "very, very slowly," the new leading edge had progressed 100 yards since Tuesday, Oliveira said.

On Wednesday it was 30 to 50 yards ahead of the former front of the flow, which began June 27 from Kilauea Volcano.

Smoke and vog on Wednesday combined to create "some hazy conditions" that were pushing toward Hilo, Oliveira said.

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