Durham explosion: Governor Cooper seeks federal relief for damaged businesses

Gov. Roy Cooper is asking for federal money to help businesses damaged by the Durham explosion.

Cooper sent a letter Friday to the U.S. Small Business Administration asking for economic injury disaster loans for the city after an April 10 gas leak led to the explosion and fire on Duke Street that killed one person and injured 25.

Kong Lee, 61, the owner of Kaffeinate coffee shop, was killed in the explosion that destroyed the building.

Eighteen buildings with a total tax value of $108.6 million were damaged, including two that are now condemned. A total of 23 businesses were affected, according to Downtown Durham Inc.

The governor’s letter says the explosion “consumed an entire city block causing heavy damage to nine businesses, destroying four businesses and impacting the operations of surrounding businesses.”

Cooper visited the explosion site on Thursday and talked with Mayor Steve Schewel and other city leaders.

“Our Emergency Management is looking at potential federal avenues of reimbursement to building owners and to the city if there were any losses there,” Cooper said Thursday. “We don’t know how that’s going to turn out yet, but they are in the process of seeing what avenues are there. Part of that may depend on the investigation and what happened.”

Cooper said Thursday, before he sent the letter Friday, that the Small Business Administration is “one of the avenues where they are looking.”

The loans from SBA can be up to $2 million, with amounts based on economic injury.

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