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      Front Street fire victims may be eligible for loans

      Georgetown County announced Friday that people who lost homes and businesses in last month's fire along Georgetown's historic Front Street may be eligible for low-interest disaster relief loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

      Jeanne A. Hulit, SBA acting administrator, made the loans available in response to a letter from Gov. Nikki Haley on Oct. 3, requesting a disaster declaration by the SBA. The declaration covers Georgetown County, plus the adjacent counties of Berkeley, Charleston, Horry, Marion and Williamsburg.

      "The SBA is strongly committed to providing the people of South Carolina with the most effective and customer-focused response possible to assist homeowners, renters and businesses of all sizes with federal disaster loans," Hulit said. "Getting businesses and communities up and running after a disaster is our highest priority at SBA."

      This move by the SBA makes loans up to $200,000 available to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate, according to the county.

      Homeowners and renters are eligible for loans up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property, said Frank Skaggs, director of SBA's Field Operations Center East in Atlanta. SBA's customer service representatives are available at the Disaster Loan Outreach Center to answer questions about the disaster loan program and help individuals complete their applications.

      The center is located in Rooms 218 and 219 of the historic Georgetown County Courthouse, 129 Screven St., Georgetown. It will be open Tuesday, Oct. 8, through Thursday, Oct. 10, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

      The fire on Front Street destroyed seven historic buildings and damaged one more. It left 13 people homeless and 130 without jobs.

      "This was a blessing for the people who were affected by that fire," said Sam Hodge, Georgetown County's emergency manager. "Some of them lost everything. I know there are a lot of people who will be incredibly grateful for this designation by the SBA and the support of Gov. Haley, which made it possible."