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Published: Wednesday, 7/16/2008

Loans may be available for Hunters Ridge apartment fire victims

BY KATE GIAMMARISE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The 200 people left homeless by the Hunters Ridge apartment fire could be eligible for up to $40,000 in low-interest federal loans to help replace lost furniture and appliances.

The fire, which destroyed nine apartment buildings with 122 units, broke out early July 5 because of fireworks that landed on the roof of one of the buildings, igniting the blaze.

During a meeting yesterday, Tina Skeldon Wozniak, president of the Lucas County commissioners, and Commissioner Ben Konop approved a resolution declaring the fire an emergency. Commissioner Pete Gerken was absent.

"Fortunately, there is some assistance available to these families for their household goods," Ms. Wozniak said.

Added Mr. Konop, "It's obviously difficult for people to rebuild their lives. We're talking about moderate-income families who don't have access to a lot of capital. ... The least we can do is take advantage of this federal program to help people."

To qualify as a disaster under the Small Business Administration loan program, at least 25 homes or apartments must be impacted with at least 40 percent uninsured losses, said Joe Walter, Lucas County Emergency Management Agency director.

The commissioners said that, according to the Greater Toledo Area Chapter of the American Red Cross, 122 apartments were burned and only 12 percent of the occupants had renter's insurance.

The emergency declaration must be submitted to the Ohio Emergency Management Agency, and then to the governor.

If it is approved, it would be forwarded to the SBA, which would send representatives to Toledo to assess damages and process loan applications, Mr. Walter said.

"Within a month, [residents] should have money in their hands," he said.

Tamara McBride, spokesman for the Ohio EMA, said people who apply for the loans can use the funds to replace items such as a car, furniture, clothing, or any other kind of personal property.

Many of the residents lost their cars as well as virtually all of their belongings.

Ms. McBride cautioned potential recipients that the funds must be applied for and paid back like any other loan.

Additionally, Ms. Wozniak said federal contingency vouchers will be available through the Lucas County Department of Job and Family Services for families who qualify.

Families must have a minor child in the household and have an income within 200 percent of the federal poverty level to receive the vouchers, which can be used for more immediate needs.

Families who want more information should call the United Way of Greater Toledo at 211.

Contact Kate Giammarise at:

kgiammarise@theblade.com

or 419-724-6133.



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