The scene on Horton Avenue in Riverhead continues to show...

The scene on Horton Avenue in Riverhead continues to show floods, a month after heavy rains pounded the region. (April 21, 2010) Credit: Newsday/James Carbone

Residents and business owners looking for help in the wake of last month's flood damage may be able to apply for federal loans as early as Monday - the only assistance available for now.

Michael Lampton, a spokesman for the Small Business Administration, said Wednesday his agency is working through New York State to find office space to take loan applications. An office could open as soon as Monday, he said.

Gov. David A. Paterson and federal legislators announced Tuesday that Suffolk and Nassau counties had qualified for SBA assistance, making residents eligible for loans to pay for flood repairs and, in the case of businesses, lost income.

Currently, SBA loans are the only federal financial help directly available to Long Islanders in the wake of a destructive nor'easter in mid-March, and heavy rains over two days, March 29 and 30.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said Wednesday that SBA loans might not be the solution for Horton Avenue residents, many of whom live "paycheck to paycheck."

"That's not really an answer," Walter said. "If you have a mortgage, how are you going to take on another loan? I'm hoping the private business community will step up."

There are between 13 and 15 homes affected by flooding on Horton Avenue, Walter said. At least four still have water inside to some degree.

President Barack Obama last week signed a disaster declaration that included Nassau and Suffolk counties, but the money made available was to governments and certain nonprofits as reimbursement for expenses incurred during storms on March 13 and 15 - not individual homeowners.

A decision on a separate application for federal disaster funding for the end-of-March storm submitted by the state has yet to be announced.

Dennis Michalski, spokesman for the New York State Emergency Management Office, said state officials didn't include a request for individual assistance - grants directly to homeowners - for the mid-March storm because a damage assessment showed it wasn't destructive enough to meet FEMA criteria.

To qualify for individual assistance under FEMA's rules, 100 homes had to be destroyed by flooding, Michalski said.

"It did not rise to that level," he said, referring to flooding on Horton Avenue in Riverhead. "We have these localized events, that are catastrophic to the people living there, but it doesn't meet the threshold for FEMA assistance."

The SBA's threshold for providing low-interest loans is much lower, and at least 25 homeowners and businesses suffered losses in Suffolk County to qualify for SBA loans, Lampton said.

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