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Helping Businesses Get Back On Solid Ground

Sue Lincoln
L to R: Congressman Garret Graves, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet, U.S. Senator David Vitter, HUD Secretary Julian Castro

“This is not the Katrina SBA.”

SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet was in south Louisiana Thursday, helping turn attention to assistance for businesses impacted by the flood.

Accompanied by U.S. Senator David Vitter, Congressmen Garret Graves and John Fleming and HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Sweet toured some of the impacted areas and held a luncheon roundtable for local proprietors.

“My business is okay. I have enough cash flow. And then you realize that it’s weeks later when your customers don’t show up, that your business is affected,” she said, urging them to sign up even if they think they don’t need help.

Some business owners in attendance said they believed they were too prosperous to qualify.

“Don’t think that disaster assistance is income based, that you don’t qualify for it,” HUD field office director Earl Randall told them. “Everyone needs assistance in these times and we’re all here to pitch in and offer that assistance.”

Sweet reminded business owners there’s a clock running on applying for the available help -- a 60-day window to apply.

“For disaster assistance, we’ll be here through mid-October, and for economic injury assistance for our businesses, we’ll be here through mid-May,” she said of the SBA Business Recovery Centers established throughout the flood-affected parishes.

State Economic Development Secretary Don Pierson was at one of those SBA Recovery Centers Thursday, as well, pitching a web portal that can guide businesses through the range of help available.

“Come to, because we’re going to show you there all the important places to go,” he told business owners coming in to discuss available help.

And for those businesses that don’t want to take a loan -- just need a little help -- Baton Rouge Area Chamber director Adam Knapp was touting a cooperative endeavor between BRAC and the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry.

“We’re putting together a privately-funded business grant program – small grants, $10-thousand or less,” Knapp said.  “You can go to and sign up to be notified about the application process. It should be live in the next day or two.”