Governor Mary Fallin today "expressed disappointment" with the notification from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that her request was denied for an economic injury declaration for businesses that continue to be impacted by the closure of the James C. Nance Memorial Bridge between Purcell and Lexington.
The governor requested the declaration for Cleveland and McClain counties on April 7. Approval would have allowed business owners in McClain and Cleveland counties to apply for federally subsidized loans.
The SBA denial letter states that the Jan. 31, 2014 bridge closure does not meet the definition of a disaster declaration, which is identified in the Small Business Act as "a sudden event which causes severe damage."
SBA does not offer an appeal process for the economic injury disaster loan program.
"I am extremely disappointed in SBA's decision to deny economic injury loans to businesses suffering from this unexpected bridge closure," said Fallin. "The bridge's closure has caused economic hardships to many businesses in Lexington and Purcell, with some reporting a 30 to 50 percent decline in sales as a result of the bridge being closed."
The governor said she talked with SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet about the difficult times businesses are facing because of the bridge closure.
"Unfortunately, she said she was just restricted by federal law to help us," Fallin said. "She wanted to. She was very sympathetic."
While SBA economic injury assistance has been denied for Cleveland and McClain counties, SBA is offering to aid businesses in finding resources that may be available through other organizations.
The James C. Nance Memorial Bridge, which provided a 10-minute trip between Lexington and Purcell, was closed after cracks were found in the beams of the truss system that holds the 76-year-old bridge over the Canadian River.
The bridge's closure has resulted in a 45-minute one-way trip between Lexington and Purcell to conduct businesses from one community to the other. The bridge scheduled to reopen June 14.
Numerous businesses have been adversely impacted by the bridge closure, which in turn had resulted in loss of sales tax revenue for Lexington and Purcell and other affected entities.