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COON VALLEY — Gov. Scott Walker came to Coon Valley Friday morning to announce a pair of state programs meant to help homeowners and small business owners affected by recent flooding get back on their feet while they wait for federal disaster assistance.

No-interest loans will be available throughout southern Wisconsin for homeowners and small business owners who intend to rebuild. 

But there was a bigger question in the room, Seland's Karpetland showroom on Central Avenue: What about the long term?

Walker acknowledged that Friday morning was a time for the state to offer "hope and comfort" but that long-term mitigation efforts will require the collaboration of an alphabet soup of federal and state agencies, from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to the state departments of Natural Resources and Transportation, along with stakeholders at every turn. 

Predicting that federal help is on the way, Walker said, "Hold tight -- we're going to use a portion of that money for mitigation" in the southern Wisconsin river systems that have been hit repeatedly by floods that were once talked about as hundred-year events.

Scott Walker

Walker

One business owner spoke for himself and fellow business owners in Ontario who have been victimized by the Kickapoo River several times the past decade.

Tony Kelbel's Drifty's Canoe Rental is getting back on its feet. His KPI Restaurant is closed for the season. Like Walker, Kelbel praised the emergency workers, highway workers, friends, neighbors and volunteers who have stepped up in the aftermath. But he and his peers struggle with a simple question: Should we do this again? And possibly again? And again after that?

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Tony Kelbel

Kelbel

"I appreciate the efforts, and it's a good first start," he said, "but (mitigation and/or relocation) needs to be a topic of discussion."

Under one program Walker announced Friday, homeowners will be eligible for no-interest loans up to $10,000 to be used for repair, cleanup and other costs under the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority’s $2 million Flood Relief Loan Program.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp., in conjunction with its regional partners, also launched the $2 million Disaster Recovery Microloan Program for small businesses. It will provide an immediate source of funds, up to $15,000, for necessary restoration work and related expenses, Walker said.

“While the floodwaters have receded, we know hundreds of businesses and homeowners are still dealing with the costs associated with the flooding that hit much of the state,” Walker said.

“We are implementing these new programs to give residents and business owners an immediate source of funds to make needed repairs without having to cut through a lot of red tape.”

More than 4,300 homes and 140 businesses in 21 counties suffered more than $150 million in damage, according to preliminary estimates from Wisconsin Emergency Management.

The new loan program will help fill any financial gap, after insurance proceeds and available federal aid have been used, to repair damaged homes. The loans, up to a maximum of $10,000, must be used to repair flood damage, especially to repair or replace heating, electrical or plumbing systems, foundations and/or structural elements.

The no-interest loans will be secured by subordinate mortgages on the homes. Although periodic payments are not required, repayment would be due upon the sale of the home during the first 10 years. The loan will be forgiven if not repaid within 10 years.

Loan eligibility requirements include:

  • Residential structures must be four units or less, where at least one of the units is owner-occupied and is the owner’s principal residence.
  • The borrower must be the owner and have a family income that does not exceed 120 percent of county median income.
  • The borrower first must use all available insurance proceeds as well as pursue and accept all available federal aid before using WHEDA loan proceeds.
  • The borrower will be required to document the use of WHEDA loan proceeds for eligible uses.

Homeowners who want to apply for a WHEDA can call 1-800-562-5546.

Under the WEDC’s Microloan Program, the agency will award grants to regional entities to provide loans of up to $15,000 to assist businesses with a short-term source of funds for repair work and operating expenses until more long-term recovery funding can be secured.

The no-interest loans have a two-year repayment period, with payments deferred for at least six months. Forgivable loans of up $15,000 also may be offered to small businesses.

The loans can be used to pay for cleanup and restoration services, operating expenses, temporary space, and repair and reconstruction work.

To be eligible, a business must be located in or directly adjacent to a region where the authorized regional entity has received an allocation, must have suffered measurable physical damage and must intend to resume business operations as quickly as possible.

While the loan program will be available to businesses in all 72 counties, WEDC is initially working with regional entities in areas the flooding hit hardest: The Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission, the Southwestern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission and the Madison Region Economic Partnership.

More information about the microloan program is available at the WEDC website.


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Reporter

Mike Tighe is the Tribune newsroom's senior citizen. That said, he don't get no respect from the cub reporters as he goes about his duly-appointed rounds on the health, religion and whatever-else-lands-in-his-inbox beats. Call him at 608-791-8446.

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