WASHINGTON -- Small businesses in and near Merced County can apply for federal loans to deal with losses from this year's drought.
The U.S. Small Business Administration announced the help in 33 California counties affected by dry conditions since Jan. 1. They include Merced, Stanislaus, San Joaquin, Calaveras, Tuolumne and Mariposa.
The loans are for nonfarm businesses harmed directly by the drought or indirectly because of damage to agriculture-related businesses on which they depend, said Alfred E. Judd, director of the SBA's Disaster Field Operations Center-West.
Businesses can borrow up to $2 million over a term of up to 30 years at 4 percent annual interest. The deadline to apply is May 6.
The drought actually started before Jan. 1, with several weeks with little rain or snow to start the winter. This followed one of the biggest storm seasons on record the previous year.
The loans became available after U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack declared a disaster in the drought region.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture had announced aid for farmers and ranchers affected by the dry weather.
Nonfarm business owners interested in the loans should call (800) 659-2955 or go to www.sba.gov/services/disasterassistance.
Farmers should go to http://disaster.fsa.usda.gov or call (209) 491-9320 in Stanislaus or Tuolumne counties, (209) 722-4119 in Merced or Mariposa counties or (209) 472-7127 in San Joaquin or Calaveras counties.