This month could be the absolute last chance to apply for assistance with damage due to Hurricane Sandy.

The deadline to apply for FEMA assistance has been moved multiple times, but disaster assistance officials warn the current May 1 deadline could be the final one to apply for assistance from FEMA or the U.S. Small Business Administration.

SBA spokeswoman Karen Knapik said this is the longest amount of time that has been given for residents to apply for a storm in the program’s history. Hurricane Sandy hit in late October and the deadline in New York already passed.

Knapik said the agency has not received any indication that another extension will be applied for or granted.

Many people may have decided not to apply for SBA loans because they thought insurance would cover the costs of their loss or they would qualify for other types of assistance, Knapik said. But by now they may have realized those courses of action would not supply enough money to cover all of the damages.

And with the current flood maps being discussed by FEMA, many homeowners near shore areas may be required to raise their homes, she said. Construction work may have become more expensive than originally anticipated once the work began and the total amount of damage could be properly assessed, she said.

Knapik encouraged people to apply just so they have the option even if they don’t want to accept the money in the end.

“They need to realize not everyone will get (aid), and then it will be too late for them by then,” she said. “That’s a whole lot of money left on the table.”

The interest rate for the loans is 1.68 percent for homeowners and renters, 3 percent for nonprofit,s and 4 percent for businesses, Knapik said.

Upon applying, the applicant has 60 days to sign paperwork and, if ultimately declined, the loan’s approval is still active for six months, Knapik said. At the end of the six-month period the applicant can still have another 60 days to decide to accept the money, she said.

So someone who applies for an SBA loan at the end of April could still decide to receive the money until late February.

If people are denied by the SBA, they can apply for other aid, such as Other Needs Assistance money. Other grants can be available if they apply through the SBA program as well.

As of Tuesday, 175,972 loan applications had been issued statewide but only 29,971 applications had been submitted. A total of 11,419 loans have been approved and $736,437,200 have been distributed.

Residents also have until May 1 to apply for FEMA money if still needed.

FEMA spokeswoman Robin Smith said that through Wednesday statewide, 260,328 applicants have received $392,463,921 in FEMA aid, which provides for essentials.

“FEMA money is basic things that get you on the road to recovery,” she said. “It’s a life preserver not a life boat. It’s just for items to get you back safe and secure.”

After the deadline is past, Smith said she will constantly meet people who say they wished they had applied.

“People didn’t think they’d need it. They thought they’d get it from insurance and they didn’t,” she said. “It certainly can’t hurt” to apply.

Contact Joel Landau:

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