KENAI (AP) -- Commercial fishermen, processors and small businesses hurt by dismal Cook Inlet sockeye salmon returns this year are eligible for low-interest loans under an economic injury disaster declared Tuesday.
Even businesses not directly involved in the fishing industry can take advantage of the loans, said Rick Risner, supervisory loan officer for the U.S. Small Business Administration, which made the disaster declaration at the request of Gov. Tony Knowles. Knowles refused earlier this fall to make a state disaster declaration.
By Wednesday afternoon, about a dozen business owners already had inquired about loans at SBA's new disaster office in Soldotna.
''We've had processors, wholesalers, commercial fishermen,'' Risner said. ''It's getting into Main Street businesses. We had an auto repair shop who couldn't get paid because of lack of funds by fishermen.''
Risner said Aida Alvarez, SBA administrator, declared the Cook Inlet region a disaster area because of the economic impact after floods in 1995 scoured sockeye salmon spawning grounds in the Kenai River, hurting this year's run.
Tuesday's declaration names the Kenai Peninsula Borough as the primary disaster area. It also names several nearby areas where businesses could qualify for low-interest loans if they were injured by the Cook Inlet disaster. The areas are Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, the Lake and Peninsula Borough and much of Prince William Sound.
SBA offers loans at 4 percent interest with terms of up to 30 years.
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