The deadline for homeowners and renters to apply for disaster assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency is May 1. Representatives for other federal aid programs warn that those who don’t apply could miss out on future grants and loans.

Only about 16 percent of those eligible to apply for Small Business Administration disaster relief loans have returned applications in New Jersey, said spokeswoman Karen Knapik.

The Small Business Administration provides low-interest loans to homeowners and renters through its disaster recovery branch. If homeowners are denied the loan, they are then eligible for additional grants, Knapik said. The paperwork also provides a crucial trail for grant programs in the future as other federal disaster aid is disbursed, she said.

“If you don’t fill out your application, you’re preventing yourself from being eligible for the last grants,” Knapik said of homeowners and renters who don’t file the SBA application they receive after they have filed with FEMA. “It means they’re leaving a lot of money on the table.”

The other issue, Knapik said, is that people may not realize the Small Business Administration helps homeowners.

As of Friday, more than 11,000 loans through the SBA had been disbursed in New Jersey, totaling $714 million. Of that total, $600 million was disbursed to homeowners.

FEMA announced last week that it would be closing three more disaster recovery centers on April 20, including those in Little Egg Harbor and Stafford townships. The centers will transition into SBA loan outreach centers on April 22. Representatives at the centers can help homeowners, renters, business owners and nonprofit organizations with loan applications and help complete paperwork.

Knapik said the application process is similar to that of applying for a car loan and takes about 15 minutes. Some people who think they won’t be eligible are encouraged to apply anyway, because the rejection letter can be important for future aid programs.

Additionally, if applicants are offered a loan, that offer can be postponed for months while homeowners decide how to rebuild, Knapik said,

Contact Sarah Watson:

609-272-7216

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