SBA opens relief center for Gateway fire

By Evan Pajer - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Feb. 22, 2013
The Gateway apartment complex was the site of a fire on Jan. 15 that destroyed 35 housing units. Photo by Evan Pajer.
The Gateway apartment complex was the site of a fire on Jan. 15 that destroyed 35 housing units. Photo by Evan Pajer.

On Feb. 20, the federal Small Business Administration was in East Hartford to provide assistance to residents who were affected by the fire at the Gateway Estates apartment complex on Jan. 15 that destroyed 35 housing units and displaced more than 30 residents. The SBA opened a disaster recovery assistance center at Town Hall to answer questions from residents.

Police are still investigating the fire at the Gateway complex, where they said suspicious fires have happened over the past year. According to a release by East Hartford police, the complex has been the site of four reported incidents that police believe to be arson. Three of those events happened last year, with the most recent occuring on Dec. 15, 2012, when two fires were found and extinguished - one in a stairwell in the building and a second in the building's laundry room. Police did not say in a release about the Jan. 15 fire whether arson was suspected.

Donald Wise, a customer service representative from the SBA who was present at Town Hall, said that many people had confused the SBA's program, which aims to provide low-interest loans to cover uninsured losses from the fire, with grant money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "A lot of people thought we were FEMA handing out grant money, which is basically free money," Wise said. "They're not really interested in getting loans."

Wise said that loans from the program will cover losses residents incurred that were not covered by their insurance. "We cover anything that isn't insured beyond a certain amount," he said. "For instance, if a renter there has $30,000 in damages but their insurance only covers $20,000 of that, they could apply for a loan through SBA for all or part of the remaining $10,000 in damages."

Although the assistance center at Town Hall was only open for three days, from Feb. 20 to Feb. 22, Wise said that residents who are interested in the program can still apply online. "They can apply from their home computers," he said. "This center is mostly for people who have questions about the program or need help applying."

Wise said that residents can apply for up to $40,000 in loans to cover personal property lost during the fire. The deadline for loan applications for property damage resulting from the fire is April 9. Residents who were effected by the fire and are interested in the program can find more information at the SBA's website, www.sba.gov.


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