Disaster loans available for businesses hurt by summer wildfires

The U.S. Small Business Administration has made federal disaster loans available to Oregon small businesses impacted by this summer's wildfires, the Oregon Office of Emergency Management said Tuesday in a news release.

Assistance is available in Jackson, Josephine, Crook, Curry, Deschutes, Douglas, Harney, Jefferson, Klamath, Lake, Lane and Linn counties.

In Southern Oregon, lightning on July 26 sparked numerous fires that have burned more than 100,000 acres of forestland, impacting rafting and lodging industries, among others.

Gov. John Kitzhaber said the wildfires were the worst in a decade.

Recreation businesses along the Rogue River estimated in mid-August that their industry was losing about $100,000 daily.

"The fires changed the economics of our region this summer; from the smoke and evacuations to river and road closures, local businesses were impacted," Josephine County Emergency Manager Jessica Schwarz said in the release. "I hope local businesses utilize the resources of the federal disaster loans to help recover from the financial impacts of the disaster."

Debbie Thomason said she'll be among those applying for a business loan. Thomason owns the Galice Resort, which offers tours and accommodations on the lower Rogue River.

August and September are usually her busiest months, but she said business is down 85 percent since the fires began.

"Because I am a seasonal business, I have six months to make the money to pay the bills 12 months out the year," said Thomason.

Thomason said she's had to dip into her retirement savings to keep things going.

Eligibility for the loans is based on the financial impact to businesses from the fires, not property damage.

The loans have a 4 percent interest rate for small businesses and 2.875 percent for nonprofit organizations. The loans have terms of up to 30 years. The loans are restricted to small businesses that cannot offset the financial impact themselves.

For more information, see www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/4/2820/news/752915.

Online applications are available at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

Interested parties can call the SBA at 1-800-659-2955.

Oregon Public Broadcasting contributed to this report.

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