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Disaster site opens in Walker for flood victims

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WALKER- Thousands of people who apply for a loan to rebuild their homes won't get approved. Strict guidelines must be met to qualify.

It's called repayment ability. If your loan to debt ratio isn't just right, you can forget about those low interest Small Business Administration loans that are being offered by the feds.

Everything inside Jonathan Thibodeaux's Denham Springs house is in a heaping pile on the curb of his street. The father of two lost everything. His family had to leave by boat.

"We had right under four feet in the house," Thibodeaux said.

Crumbled pieces of Sheetrock that once made up the walls of the home sit in a pile mixed with furniture, cars and other belongings that couldn't be saved.

"It just rose quickly and I never thought it would get this high here," Thibodeaux said.

Not far away, the feds opened a disaster recovery center in Walker to help residents like Thibodeaux. It's one of the hardest hit parishes in our area. Only two families were there when WBRZ's Chris Nakamoto showed up to apply for an SBA loan to rebuild.

"You do have to have repayment ability and we can stretch the loan out as far as 30 years," Cynthia Cowell, with the SBA, said. "They need to apply for an SBA loan if they are referred by FEMA. If they don't qualify we can refer them back to FEMA for other needs assistance consideration."

During conversations with the SBA, it was learned the majority of people won't qualify for a number of reasons, ranging from income to current debt that's owed. For Thibodeaux, the house long process to apply was taxing.

"They just turned me down on the spot just to try to speed the process along," Thibodeaux said. "I do construction and just with the dependents I have it wasn't enough."

So, Thibodeaux won't get that low interest loan to rebuild. His income not high enough. Friday, we met a widow in Ascension Parish. Lynn DeBenedetto also said she did not qualify for the SBA loan to rebuild.

The SBA loan for homeowners can give eligible borrowers up to $200,000 to repair their homes.  Another $40,000 can be borrowed to replace personal property. But people like Thibodeaux believe the process needs to be more streamlined.

"It's kind of a let down," Thibodeaux said. "I feel like I wasted my time."

It's time he says he could have dedicated to cleaning up his flood ravaged house that is now gutted like all the others on his street.

Thibodeaux says an income sheet to weed out who qualifies and who doesn't would have been helpful. We requested that but weren't given that information. WBRZ learned in past disasters, less than a third of the residents who apply for disaster loans are actually granted them. The SBA says everything is done on a case by case basis. With Monday being a holiday, they couldn't give exact figures WBRZ wanted.


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