The U.S. Small Business Administration has denied Gov. Mary Fallin's assistance request for businesses impacted by the closure of James C. Nance Memorial Bridge between Purcell and Lexington.
According to the Governor's Office, Gov. Fallin requested an economic injury declaration for Cleveland and McClain counties on April 7. Approval would have allowed business owners in these counties to apply for federally subsidized loans.
However, the SBA denied the request, stating that the 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."
While SBA's economic injury assistance has been denied for Cleveland and McClain counties, SBA offered to help businesses find 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 on January 31 after cracks were found in the beams of the truss system that holds the 76-year-old bridge over the Canadian River. The 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 is scheduled to reopen on June 14.
Numerous businesses have been impacted by the bridge closure, which in turn had resulted in loss of sales tax revenue for Lexington and Purcell and other affected entities, according to the Governor's Office.