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AFWD tries to help businesses hurt by Chips Fire

Dan McDonald
Staff Writer

Many businesses in Plumas County — particularly in the Almanor Basin — are suffering because of the Chips Fire.

The Alliance for Workforce Development is trying to help those businesses become eligible for government assistance.

“We are trying to help the county be able to have this area declared an ‘economic injury disaster area’,” said AFWD service representative Jan Prichard.

For impacted businesses to become eligible for assistance, the Small Business Administration (SBA) would have to make an economic injury disaster declaration in Plumas County.

The SBA could make the declaration if the governor certifies that at least five small businesses in the area have suffered substantial economic injury as a result of the fire.

AFWD is trying to help with the certification part, but needs business owners to provide specific information. Prichard’s office is trying to get affected business owners to fill out an economic injury worksheet.

Prichard began emailing the straightforward, one-page form to business owners and the county’s chambers of commerce Thursday, Aug. 23.

The forms are also available at Business and Career Network offices in the county. Business owners can call 283-1606 or email Prichard at jprichard@ncen.org.

Prichard is dedicated “full-time” to gathering data from businesses hurt by the fire.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for business owners to fill out the form,” Prichard said. “I can come to them and deliver it. I can collect it. Whatever is easiest, I will do it.”

Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency in Plumas, Shasta and Tehama counties Wednesday, Aug. 22.

The declaration paved the way for the counties to get additional resources to fight three major fires, including the Chips Fire. However, the declaration doesn’t provide immediate financial help to businesses, according a spokesman in the governor’s office.

The best avenue for businesses to get help is through the effort being spearheaded by the AFWD.

Businesses that are having cash-flow problems because of the fires could become eligible for low-interest loans if the economic disaster is declared.

The interest rate on loans for similar disasters in other parts of the country has been as low as 4 percent. Some of the loans have included payback terms of as long as 30 years.

Workers who have lost their jobs because of the fire could be eligible for fast-tracked unemployment benefits.

Prichard said some businesses might not even realize how much the fire has affected them.

“Businesses have been hurt because of all the events that have been cancelled due to the fire,” Prichard said. “People who were planning to vacation here might have cancelled their reservations even though the fire wouldn’t have affected them.

“They know there is a fire in Plumas County. But they don’t know the area well enough to know

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