First responders respond to an explosion in a 35-unit apartment building that injured eight people in Austin on Sept. 20, 2022. Credit: Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago

AUSTIN — Dozens of families displaced after a natural gas explosion in Austin last month can seek up to $200,000 in low-interest loans to pay for damages not covered by insurance, local officials announced this week.

The U.S. Small Business Association approved a disaster declaration for the explosion that occurred at 5601 W. West End Ave. on Sept. 20, Gov. JB Pritzker said Tuesday.

One man was killed and seven injured after the blast shattered the roof of the 35-unit building, and left bricks and other debris strewn across the ground. The explosion was caused by “the ignition of natural gas,” fire officials said.

A temporary Disaster Loan Outreach Center is being set up at Austin Town Hall Park, 5610 W. Lake St. Displaced residents can come to the center starting 11 a.m. Thursday to get help filling out loan applications, officials said.

The center will be open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturdays.

It will be open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Indigenous Peoples Day, Oct. 10.

The center closes permanently at 4 p.m. Oct. 20th.

Homeowners can apply for up to $200,000 in low-interest loans to repair or replace damaged or destroyed real estate. Homeowners or renters can apply for up to $40,000 to repair or replace damaged or destroyed personal property. Businesses and not-for-profits can borrow up to $2 million for physical damages.

More details on the loans are available here.

“Illinois is very grateful to the SBA because it will help these families rebuild their lives,” said Alicia Tate-Nadeau, director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency. “Some of these residents lost not just the structure of their home, but everything they owned. I encourage every resident affected by the explosion to apply for one of these loans.”

“We are grateful to the Illinois Emergency Management Agency for their continued efforts in assisting Chicago residents who have been impacted by this explosion,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “Increased availability of loans will give residents yet another option to consider in their collective road to recovery.”

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