Alamosa businesses who suffered financially from the salmonella outbreak can begin applying for low-interest loans for assistance.
The U.S. Small Business Administration on Friday declared Alamosa and surrounding counties a disaster area so businesses could qualify for the loans. Other counties included in the declaration are Conejos, Costilla, Huerfano, Rio Grande and Saguache.
The SBA said in a statement the purpose of the loans is to help businesses who say customer sales decreased after the first cases of salmonella were reported on March 7.
The disaster declaration comes a day after state health officials said Alamosa residents could use city water for drinking, cooking, making ice and brushing their teeth -- as long as they boiled the water for one minute.
Residents were warned not to use water straight from the tap since March 19 after several cases of salmonella were reported. Businesses donated bottled water, hand sanitizers and facilities for residents to shower.
So far, at least 343 cases of salmonella have been documented. Thirteen people have been hospitalized.
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