The federal government wants to find out if its low interest loans are really helping Mississippi businesses get back on track after Katrina. Since the storm, the Small Business Administration has divvied out 27,768 disaster loans in our state worth $2 billion. Business disaster loans make up $369 million of that. SBA officials checked up on a few of those business to see how they are progressing.
The sound of children laughing and playing still fills the Learning Depot in Ocean Springs just as it did before Hurricane Katrina. What's different since the storm are most of the young faces who go there.
"I had 39 students on roll and out of the that 39 students, 30 parents did not have a home, did not have a job or did not have both," said owner Karla Owens.
With only a few students left, Owens was at a loss for how to pay the daycare center's bills and her staff.
"I knew I couldn't open my business. I couldn't pay my overhead. I couldn't pay my staff. I couldn't pay anybody. [I couldn't pay] my monthly bills, nothing, if it hadn't been for the SBA."
On Wednesday, SBA officials saw the difference Owen's $81,000 loan is making. They also asked her questions about how to improve the application process.
SBA Regional Administrator Nuby Fowler said, "I really wanted to see for myself how these small business owners were fairing with our processes, and what they were using their funds for because it is so important to have the continuity. I think one of the best advantages of the SBA disaster loan is that you can continue working because we are there to help you."
Owens says the money helped her enrollment go way up by being able to do more than just make storm repairs. She's also made improvements to the furniture, toys, and playground so these little ones can have better place to play and to learn.
According to officials, the SBA has okayed more than $1.6 billion in loans to Mississippi homeowners. You have until April 10th to apply for an SBA loan. Click here to apply or to just learn more about the process.