A KY3 investigation reveals that fewer than half of the people who applied for U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loans after severe storms and flooding in southwest Missouri in 2008 got loan approvals and took the money. We started looking into the effectiveness of the program after our latest round of severe weather. We found many don't want the loans, and others who took them have regrets.
BRANSON, Mo. -- "It's the thing that you're going to remember forever," said Isis Biesterfeld.
Record-setting rainfall poured out of the skies on March 18, 2008. Several inches of rain dumped into rivers, streams and lakes. That storm set off a series of life changing events in Biesterfeld's world.
"Here's another picture of the flood line," she said recently.
All that rain came calling at her front door in the form of floodwater. Biesterfeld and her husband lived off Lake Taneycomo.
"I think you're kind of in a daze, a fog. You just kind of walk around and you just look at your things and you know they're not useable anymore," said Biesterfeld.
In that daze, Biesterfeld turned to the government for help. The Small Business Administration offers low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters and businesses. The rate is typically 3 percent or lower for homeowners.
In our review of SBA records from that event in 2008, we found just 38 percent of those who applied wound up getting approved -- and accepted the money.
Jeanette Johnson runs a mom-and-pop lodge along the lake. The flood flattened reservations in 2008.
"Our business is dependent on those that are using the lake -- divers, fishermen -- and they couldn't access the lake because it was flooded. That really hurt our business," said Johnson.
Johnson's Parkview Lodge was approved for a $5,000 low-interest disaster loan. But, like several others we interviewed, Johnson turned down the money.
"It was just an extra monthly payment and more debt, so we didn't feel like that would really help us out all that much," she said.
"I would tell them to really think about it first," said Biesterfeld.
Far from putting the flood of 2008 behind her, Biesterfeld has regrets -- even though this spring would've brought a repeat for her and her husband.
A concrete pad marks where the couple used to live. It got flooded once again in 2011. It's a site where people are dumping stuff that got wiped out in the latest round of flooding.
Despite that, Biesterfeld feels saddled with a sentence. She borrowed close to $123,000.
"It's a 30-year loan. I'll be in my 90s before we pay it off and, I don't know, I think it's too much for us. If I had to do it over again, I think I would just go get a camper with a slideout. I think I would just do that -- or a small trailer."
The government budgeted a little more than $11 million for disaster assistance after that round of storms. The SBA wound up making just more than $7 million in loans to just 171 people in 35 counties.
Here's a map where you can see which cities had the most loan applications.
An SBA representative says the number of loans made can be impacted by private insurance settlements -- and loans are extended to 30 years to try to make them more affordable.
If you've ever applied for a disaster loan, we want to hear from you. Let us know how it worked out.