By Bob Zientara

Owners of Barron County businesses damaged during July 2019 storms can qualify for zero-interest loans of up to $20,000 to make repairs, according to the West Central Wisconsin Regional Planning commission.

Announced Monday, Aug. 19, 2019, the loans must be repaid in two years, although payment is deferred during the first six months.

Barron County has posted information on how to apply for the loans on its website, according to the Barron County Clerk’s office.

The short-term disaster loans are available in Barron, Chippewa, Clark, Dunn, Eau Claire, Polk, and St. Croix counties.

According to the West Central Wisconsin Economic Development Commission, the loans cover such activities as “procurement of cleanup and restoration services; operating expenses such as payroll; rent/mortgage for temporary space; repairs; and reconstruction.”

Collateral is required for the loans, and “unlimited personal guarantees” are required for any owner with a 20 percent or greater ownership interest in the business.

All customary out-of-pocket fees are the applicant’s responsibility.

On Monday, Evers announced he had sent a letter to President Donald Trump requesting the federal disaster declaration for Barron, Clark, Forest, La Crosse, Langlade, Marinette, Menominee, Monroe, Oconto, Oneida, Outagamie, Polk, Portage, Rusk, Shawano, Vernon, Waupaca, and Wood counties and for the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin and St. Croix Chippewa Indians of Wisconsin.

The July 18 and 20 storms included strong winds with speeds up to 100 mph, downed hundreds of thousands of trees and power lines, spun up 17 tornadoes and resulted in the deaths of two individuals during cleanup efforts.

Emergency rooms across the impacted areas also reported injuries as a result of moving downed trees and other debris. In addition, more than 300,000 customers were without power for days.

If approved, FEMA’s Public Assistance Program would provide 75 percent of eligible costs. The state of Wisconsin and local communities share the remaining 25 percent.