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DuPage residents may be throwing out important FEMA aid application

Published: Friday, June 21, 2013 11:56 a.m. CST • Updated: Friday, July 25, 2014 4:49 a.m. CST

When the rains and floods hit Illinois in April, many DuPage County residents were affected, some drastically.

Homes were damaged, property was destroyed, business saw loss – and sometimes worse. DuPage County eventually was awarded flood recovery assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

However, while many residents could be eligible for aid consideration, a large portion may be leaving money on the table because they assume they won't qualify.

"Typically, when a person applies with FEMA, they get a piece of paper that says 'the Small Business Administration' as well," said Greg Dawson, public affairs specialist at the SBA. "They look at the name, say 'we aren't a small business' and throw it away. That's the biggest mistake they could make."

According to the SBA media guide, the administration has been covering disaster assistance since 1953, providing low-interest loans to businesses, renters and homeowners. When a resident or business registers with FEMA, they are given a FEMA application as well as an SBA form. Many overlook the SBA as a possible recovery option because of the "business" portion of their title.

The difference between the two programs is that the SBA offers low-interest loans, while FEMA gives out grants that do not need to be repaid and are offered only to individuals. Still, Dawson said, when disasters strike, every bit of money can help.

"Don't disqualify yourself by not applying," he said. "Leave it as an option. You don't have to take the loan, but if circumstances change 30 to 40 days later, then you have it."

Dawson said that he reviews all SBA applications and tries to make a decision about each one within 18 days of receiving it. Acceptance into the program is non-binding, and that there is a 60 day period to decide after approval, according to Dawson.

According to the most recent numbers, 4,157 people in DuPage applied for aid of some kind, said David Gervino, a public information officer at the DuPage Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. The deadline for both FEMA and SBA grants is July 9.

Residents can register for all forms of disaster relief at www.disasterassistance.gov or call FEMA's toll-free hotline at 800-621-3362.

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