There's some good news for small businesses along the Gulf of Mexico. Starting Thursday small business owners that earn their living off the fruits of the sea - fishermen, restauranteurs, seafood processing plant and boat rental owners - can apply for economic injury assistance loans.
On Sunday, for obvious health concerns, the waters in the Gulf were closed to fishing and boating. As the clean up efforts continue following the BP oil spill, those business sit idle. So the Small Business Administration, in response to a request by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and in recognition of the financial losses facing those small businesses, is making disaster loans available in 13 Louisiana parishes and two Mississippi counties.
The SBA has established 15 outreach centers with 125 staff on the ground in the region, a call center (800-659-2955) and secure web site application for the disaster loans, all operational Thursday.
SBA Administrator Karen Mills insists her organization is prepared to help and cover all potential applications. "We have the funding to do a substantial amount for these small businesses," she said on a conference call with reporters. "We're not concerned about the level of funding, we're prepared for what comes."
According to Mills, her administration has a rough estimate of those effected in the Gulf and insists there is enough funding for the disaster loans, which go up to to $2 million per loan, and will not "eat into" any other recovery efforts of funding. "We're ready to cover any number of actives all across the country, we're funded for that," said Mills.
There is a deadline for filling for - February 7th, 2011. Mills says her administration is committed to staying on the ground in the gulf region for those 9 months, but will have a presence beyond, until the SBA gets "the job done". These economic injury loans are meant for small business owners who have expenses that would have been paid had it not been for a disaster. The SBA will also look forward, months ahead to foresee how the fishing and boating ban will effect businesses longer term and assess the amount of the loan needed. The loans are up to 30 years with 4% interest.