© 2023 WSKG

601 Gates Road
Vestal, NY 13850

217 N Aurora St
Ithaca, NY 14850

FCC Public Files:
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

For some, disaster loans go not to repair what is lost, but to start anew

Steuben flood loans mixdown WEB

BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG)—Deena Turner still hasn’t gone back to living in her home in Woodhull, and she probably never will. It would cost tens of thousands of dollars to replace the furnace, appliances and floors wrecked by floodwaters last summer.

Their home was located across from one of the two creeks that flooded as Tropical Storm Fred passed through the region in August.

“At this point, the bank is like, ‘Well, it's up to you to fix the damages,’” Turner said. “All the quotes that we have gotten are for more than what the house is worth.”

Turner is one of hundreds of residents in Steuben County who lost property after flooding last summer. To fill in the gaps, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has offered loans to cover the cost of damages, but some are saying the help arrived too late.

Seeking a fresh start

Turner and her boyfriend were still paying off the mortgage when their home near the center of town flooded.

They're a "blended" family, Turner said, and lived there with their four kids.

“He's got two kids from a previous relationship. I have two kids from a previous relationship,” Turner explained. “So we made a lot of memories together as a family, instead of as a couple that has kids.”

The family stayed in a hotel immediately after the flood. But the kids were far from school in Addison, and bussing them there became complicated.

For now, Turner and her kids have split time between a camper parked in the yard and her parents’ house.

“Before we got that [camper], we were loaned a smaller one, so there wasn't really much room to move around,” Turner continued. “We were basically right on top of each other.”

Turner said the family plans to buy a new home, one on higher ground and where they can more easily fit. It makes more sense, she explained, than putting more money into one that may flood again.

To cover the down payment, the couple applied for help from the SBA.

“We’re hoping that with the SBA loan, it really helps us start fresh and work on getting back the things that we did lose,” Turner said.

That includes much of their furniture and two vehicles, leaving the family with just one car. Turner, who needs a car to get to work, said the family has struggled without it.

“It's definitely a light at the end of the tunnel,” she continued. “There's hope, hopefully.”

“A day late and a dollar short”

The SBA offered residents low-interest loans. They have until mid-March to apply online, and can get help with their application at a relief center set up in Woodhull through Thursday, Feb. 10.

But many homeowners in town have already sunk thousands of dollars into repairs. Helen Colegrove said the loans would have been useful months ago, when she bought a new furnace and flooring.

Her cellar filled with seven feet of water, and her living room floor buckled from the moisture underneath.

“It's a day late and a dollar short. If we don't have it by now, we can't live in our homes,” Colegrove said. “We got to have heat. We got to have electric. We got to have water, and there was nobody to pay for it then.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) first denied New York’s request for individual assistance in October. An appeal was rejected last month.

Carl Dombek, a spokesperson for the SBA, said it was then that New York asked and was approved for disaster loans.

Homeowners can get up to $200,000 flood-related home repairs, and any resident can get up to $40,000 to replace personal property.

But even if residents were offered loans earlier, Colegrove wasn’t sure they would have been the best option.

“I'm 68 years old and I do not want a loan in my life,” Colegrove said.

She also, however, stressed that she was in a better position than many of her neighbors. Unlike some of them, she could stay in her home through the winter.