Saturday, March 2, 2013

disaster relief

We have bad phone service at our apartment. Kingston is so small that it is only served on one end by cell phone towers. Bryan and I will usually plan something around the opportunity to go uptown and make phone calls. Yesterday we stopped by the bank and then headed west, uphill. I thought it would be a nice day to drive to Phoenicia, a small skiing and tubing village in the Catskills. As we headed out of town through the traffic circle and onto Route 28, I picked up the phone and called Dave, the SBA representative who has been trying to get ahold of me for the past week. The Small Business Administration's role in disaster relief is to administer emergency loans. If mistakes were made in your FEMA application or inspection, you are encouraged to apply for the SBA loan. If you are not approved for the loan, your application will go back to FEMA for consideration. I was also told that I could have requested a second inspection, but that didn't happen. I didn't find out the inspector had entered incorrect information about my apartment until well into the process, after numerous phone calls to the federal FEMA number and visits to the local FEMA office. All of it was so confusing and I was under an enormous amount of stress. I was planning to appeal my FEMA decision, but I missed the deadline.

So after all else I applied for the SBA loan. The online application was fairly easy. After filling it out I was instructed to submit IRS form 8821, which gives the IRS permission to show my tax returns from 2008 to 2011 to the SBA. I filled out the form electronically and added a scanned signature, then digitally faxed it to the number in the instructions. A few days later I began getting voice mails from the SBA, saying they needed me to submit the 8821. I checked a confirmation email I had received from the SBA when I submitted my application and found that I was supposed to submit the form directly to them. So I emailed the form, but they rejected it, saying that it had to contain an actual signature. Bryan was asking me how they knew, whether I had flattened the image before saving it as a pdf. I said I probably hadn't, and that the signature was too small also. He said if it had been good enough I would have gotten away with it. So I put a copy of the unsigned form on my flash drive and brought it uptown to Catskill Art Supply to have it printed so I could sign it and then have them scan it for me and put it back on my drive. I emailed it over and a few days later I started receiving messages from Dave.

Dave asked me a few basic questions- what the total value is of what we lost, did we have a vehicle that was damaged, what kinds of things did we lose, did FEMA give us anything, did we have insurance? I told him I could give him an itemized list of what we lost and our expenses related to the flood, and photographs of the damaged apartment. Seemed like I was barely on the phone with him a few minutes before I started to lose phone service again, heading into the mountains. But I was able to call him back and he gave me an email address to send the information to. Bryan and I went over our lists today before I sent the packet over. I have learned that it is a mistake to get my hopes up. But I haven't learned not to. So I am hopeful.

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