Legislators Raise Concerns About Helping Small Business

GULFPORT (WLOX)-- The Mississippi Development team gave lawmakers and others a nearly three hour long report card on disaster relief progress Friday morning.

One success story is help for housing. By the end of this year, the MDA will have doled out some two billion dollars in housing grants.

"To date we're at one point six billion. In the last two and half months we have approved five thousand applicants of the 27,000 that have received awards," said Jon Mabry, who heads disaster recovery for the Mississippi Development Authority.

"Ninety nine percent of that portion of the money has been spent at this time. It's gotten into the hands of the right people, the home owners," said Sen. David Baria of Bay St. Louis.

Legislators seemed pleased overall with the home owner grant program. But they did make a plea that the MDA develop some sort of grant program to help small business owners, many of whom are struggling since Katrina.

"The ones we're talking about are the ones that their whole families are going to be ruined by this. Because we've left them out," said Myrtis Franke, who works for Senator Thad Cochran.

"Have you done anything? Have you made appeals to HUD already or is there a program in force. Or are you just at a point you want to launch this now? I'm hoping that you've already got something running, up and going," said state Sen. Billy Hewes.

"I can't tell you if a grant is allowable or not right now. We've got to look at the regulations. That's what we've got to do when we design these product lines," Mabry explained.

"I've got one sitting in a lawyer's office right now as we speak who is talking about filing bankruptcy," said Franke, detailing the plight facing many small business owners.

The disaster relief director for MDA promised to pursue the request of help for small business. But he admits that getting HUD approval for such a program would take months.