WASHINGTON - Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), Chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, and sixth district Congressman John Tierney (D-Salem), today announced that residents effected by the devastating June 1 fire in Gloucester would be eligible for disaster assistance for loss of residential property from the Small Business Administration (SBA). The areas of Essex, and contiguous counties of Middlesex and Suffolk, have been declared disaster areas.

"There's nothing we can do to erase the losses suffered by the people of the Gloucester area, but we can offer a financial lifeline to provide some hope for residents as they work towards recovery,” said Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. “I will continue to work with Congressman Tierney to do whatever we can to help this community get back on its feet."

Congressman Tierney, who visited the site and met with a number of victims shortly after the fire said, "I am gratified that the SBA has come through so quickly with this declaration, which is essential to assist the scores of people who were so severely impacted by the fire in Magnolia. My office will continue to work with Senator Kerry and the individual families as they work to recover from this devastating fire."

Although the SBA normally assists small businesses, residential losses are also covered by disaster loans. In this situation, the declaration of a disaster area allows all owners of residential property that was damaged by the fire to be eligible for disaster assistance through the Small Business Administration’s Disaster Assistance office. Applications for loans to cover physical damage must be received by August 13, 2002. For economic injury as a result of the fire, a March 12, 2003, deadline has been made for affected small business owners.

The loans available vary in interest rates but can be as low as 3.4% with terms extending up to 30 years. Eligible homeowners and renters can borrow up to $40,000 to replace damaged personal property such as furniture and clothing. Homeowners are eligible for up to $200,000 to repair disaster-damaged real estate. Loans to businesses and non-profits are available up to $1.5 million to cover property loss and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) are also available to small businesses unable to pay bills or meet operating expenses.

For more information, a workshop has been set-up until June 19th to assist victims of this tragedy at the following location:

American Red Cross 185 Main Street Gloucester, Massachusetts

Or you can contact the Disaster Area Office at 1-800-659-2955 or for the hearing impaired 1-800-877-8339.