Alto tornado victims get assistance

by Cristin Parker

Non-profits and at least one federal entity have stepped up to offer some financial relief to Alto residents and business owners affected by the spring tornadoes that swept through the town on April 13.

But the need for assistance continues to be greater than what help has been provided, thus far.

“We are grateful to Greater East Texas Community Action Plan (GETCAP), a not-for-profit organization, for coming to Alto this past Wednesday to help low income and disaster affected Alto families,” officials with the Chapparal Center in Alto posted on social media recently. “Unfortunately, the demand for the $500 federal grant was much greater than expected and they soon ran out of gift cards.

“For those who submitted an application but did not receive the gift card on Wednesday and want a status update, please contact GETCAP at 1-800-621-5746.

“If GETCAP decides to return to Alto to provide additional assistance, we will make an announcement via Facebook.”

Low-interest federal disaster loans are now available to Alto businesses and residents affected by severe weather and tornadoes that occurred April 13-15.

U.S. Small Business Administration acting Administrator Christopher M. Pilkerton said the SBA acted under its own authority to declare a disaster in response to a request made from Gov. Greg Abbott on May 17.

The disaster declaration makes the financial assistance available in Cherokee and 15 other counties.

“SBA is strongly committed to providing Texas with the most effective and customer-focused response possible, and we will be there to provide access to federal disaster loans to help finance recovery for businesses and residents affected by the disaster,” Pilkerton said. “Getting our businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is our highest priority at SBA.”

Beginning 7:30 a.m., Friday, May 24, SBA representatives are at Alto City Hall, 404 W. San Antonio St., Alto, to answer questions about the loan program, explain the application process and help individuals complete applications.

The SBA Disaster Loan Outreach Center will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; and 7:30-11:30 a.m. Friday through Thursday, June 6. No appointments are necessary.
The Center will close 6 p.m., Thursday, June 6 and was closed Monday, May 27, for Memorial Day.

“Low-interest federal disaster loans are available to businesses of all sizes, most private nonprofit organizations, homeowners and renters whose property was damaged or destroyed by this disaster,” SBA Disaster Field Operations Center-West Director Tanya N. Garfield said.

Applicants may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory and other business assets. SBA can also lend additional funds to businesses and homeowners to help with the cost of improvements to protect, prevent or minimize the same type of disaster damage from occurring in the future.

For small businesses, small agriculture cooperatives, small businesses in aquaculture and most private nonprofit organizations of any size, SBA offers Economic Injury Disaster Loans to help meet working capital needs caused by the disaster. Economic injury assistance is available regardless of whether the business suffered any property damage.

Disaster loans up to $200,000 are available to homeowners to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners and renters are eligible for up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property.

Interest rates can be as low as 4 percent for businesses; 2.75 percent for private nonprofit organizations; and 2.063 percent for homeowners and renters with terms of up to 30 years. Loan amounts and terms are set by SBA and are based on each applicant’s financial condition. Applicants may apply online at; call (800) 659-2955; or email Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX 76155. Deadline to apply for property damage is July 22. Deadline to apply for economic injury is Feb. 24, 2020.