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Aid arrives for fire-hurt businesses in Modesto

Business owners who saw their livelihoods reduced to charred rubble are about to get some good news.

The federal Small Business Administration announced Thursday that it's handing out loans of up to $2 million to help businesses affected by an August fire that gutted an office complex at 1050 N. Carpenter Road.

The building was home to 18 businesses, including insurance, chiropractic, travel, legal services and a driving school. The three-alarm blaze caused at least $1 million in damage, fire investigators said. Authorities believe a mechanical or electrical malfunction in the attic started the fire.

Only the building's basement had a sprinkler system. Many business owners lost everything they had.

The loans aren't just for businesses damaged in the fire. Establishments that were indirectly affected — those that lost customers because of the fire, for example — also can apply, said SBA spokesman Alex Contreras.

"We always tell people who are thinking about applying or who've been affected that they should apply even if they don't think they're going to qualify, because if you're not covered by insurance or you're underinsured, the money will be helpful," Contreras said.

Tim Tafoya, a co-owner of Maya Design Studio, said his graphic design business lost about $25,000 of equipment in the fire. Including lost data, the damage amounted to $150,000 to $200,000. Since the fire, Tafoya and his partners have been working out of a house.

Tafoya said he's applied for an SBA loan to replace Mac computers and cameras. He knows of at least five other businesses that have applied for the SBA loans in amounts ranging from $50,000 to $300,000.

The loans have a 4 percent interest rate and a maximum term of 30 years. The money must be used for operating expenses.

The SBA is setting up a Disaster Loan Outreach Center on the second floor of Tenth Street Place, 1010 10th Street, from 1:30 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Wednesday.

Loan information and applications also are available from the SBA's customer service center at (800) 659-2955. Applicants can go be made online as well at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

Bee staff writer Leslie Albrecht can be reached at lalbrecht@modbee.com or 578-2378. Follow her at Twitter.com/BeeReporter.

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