Businesses shut down by Hurricane Katrina may be eligible for government help in getting the doors back open. Small Business Administration officials say FEMA has already referred 44,000 Mississippi businesses to their agency for low interest disaster loans. About 900 have applied. On Thursday, the SBA's top man was in Gulfport as part of a campaign to make sure people understand how to get the help that out there for them.
From checking inventory to hiring more employees, there's a lot to be done before Rob Stinson can re-open his restaurant. All that work leaves him little time for filing out forms for government loans.
"The most helpful thing they could do is to have a disaster relief program where you didn't have to go through 400 pages of paperwork," said Stinson.
Small Business Administrator Hector Barreto told coast government and business leaders that moving quickly to help businesses recover from Katrina is a priority.
"We're trying to make it as painless as possible," said Barreto. "We understand that small business people and homeowners for that matter don't have a lot of time to be filing out forms and waiting for a decision so we're going to do that as quickly as possible."
The SBA has low interest loans for up to $1.5 million for business owners who lost property or revenue because of the storm.
"There is nothing small about small business and especially here in Mississippi and Alabama and Louisiana where I was at last week," said Barreto."Small business really is the engine that fuels these economies. It's 99 percent of all the businesses."
small Business Administration officials say their disaster loan program is open to large as well as small businesses owners.