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KEDB to contribute $25,000 to help merchants hurt by flooding

Hank Hayes • Aug 6, 2013 at 9:41 PM

KINGSPORT — The Kingsport Economic Development Board voted Tuesday to pitch in $25,000 toward an ongoing downtown business relief effort aimed primarily at covering cleanup expenses from mid-July flooding.

Mayor Dennis Phillips, an ex-officio KEDB member, requested the donation.

“I don’t think any of the merchants had flood insurance. ... I don’t think you could buy flood insurance because it’s not in a flood zone ... but I don’t think you could convince any of those merchants it’s not in a flood zone,” Phillips told KEDB members. “Most of those people were just devastated. Many of them had put every dollar they could scrape or borrow from their family members into this. ... It’s a situation where two or three or four thousand dollars could mean an awful lot — the difference between surviving and not surviving in some cases. The city of Kingsport cannot legally make a donation or write a check into this.”

The Downtown Kingsport Association has raised about $33,000 to help with flood relief through a recent WKPT-TV telethon and individual monetary gifts.

DKA Executive Director Sherri Mosley has been putting a committee in place to review relief applications submitted by downtown businesses by Aug. 17.

“We are under a microscope here, so we will be very good stewards of the money,” Mosley promised KEDB members.

After cleanup expenses, inventory loss and restoration costs would be considered for reimbursement, Mosley told the KEDB.

The DKA estimated more than 60 businesses were affected by flooding in an area of more than 20 blocks, with about a dozen businesses suffering losses accumulating to about $210,000.

KEDB members discussed whether it could legally tap into Kingsport Housing and Redevelopment Authority-administered monies generated from a past state law designating the downtown area as a redevelopment district.

But the decision was made to do the $25,000 donation and find a way to recoup those funds later.

“The damage occurred three or four weeks ago. The pain is now, not a month from now,” KEDB Secretary/Treasurer Lynn Johnson pointed out.

Financial assistance in the form of low-interest, long-term loans for losses not fully covered by insurance are also available to downtown businesses from the Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA representatives were on site at the Kingsport Chamber of Commerce Tuesday and will be there through Thursday, Aug. 15.

Kingsport Office of Small Business Development and Entrepreneurship (KOSBE) Executive Director Aundrea Wilcox said loan proceeds may be used to replace or repair real property, machinery, equipment, fixtures, inventories and leasehold improvements.

“This program can help you meet normal financial obligations that have become impossible or a strain due to the disaster,” she explained. “For a business, this could mean offsetting loss of sales. Another consideration is in regard to energy efficiency. During rebuilding may be the best time to implement overdue energy efficiency projects.”

SBA micro-lender Pathway Lending will also be at the Kingsport Chamber on Tuesday, Aug. 13, and Wednesday, Aug. 14, to also make loans and provide advisory services.

For more information, call KOSBE at (423) 392-8811.

More information on SBA disaster loans is at: www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/loans-grants/small-business-loans/disaster-loans.

For more about the flood relief effort, go to www.downtownkingsport.org.

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