BRIDGEPORT, Conn. — First, Claire Marchetti heard the fire alarms blaring in her Charles Street apartment complex on New Year’s Eve in Bridgeport.
Then she heard firefighters yelling, “Get out! Everyone, get out!”
“I just ran out,” she said, shaking her head. “I ran out with no shoes, no coat, no pocketbook.
“The lady at the diner had to give me some shoes. We lost everything.”
Marchetti is just one of an estimated 121 displaced people who were left homeless after the non-fatal blaze. It is believed to be the largest residential fire in Bridgeport’s — and possibly the state’s — history, said Mayor Joseph P. Ganim.
But there is reason for hope: On Tuesday, the Small Business Administration opened a temporary Disaster Loan Outreach Center in Bridgeport to help homeowners, renters and business owners who were impacted by the disaster apply for federal SBA low-interest loans and in-person help.
From now through at least Thursday, displaced victims can apply for assistance, including loans with interest rates as low as 1.8 percent, at the Margaret Morton Government Center, 999 Broad St. Victims may apply online at SBA.gov, but the process is easier in person, said Reid Hoke, an SBA loan specialist.
“You simply can’t find that kind of loan in the private sector,” said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.
Ganim praised the SBA for its response to the needs of individuals, not just small businesses.
“Frankly, I didn’t know they did that,” he said.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal praised all those who have come to the aid of the fire victims, many of whom are living with family and friends across the region. The city received so many donations of clothing, toys and supplies, they were able to help the victims and many of the city’s most needy.
“This fire was a true disaster of historic magnitude,” he said. “The people of Bridgeport pour out their hearts and their wallets” for those affected.
Blumenthal encouraged victims to take advantage of the low-interest loans of up to $40,000 for renters and $200,000 for owners. The turnaround time is usually 21 days, Hoke said.
“Here is an example of government doing something really good, really fast,” Blumenthal said.
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