President Obama on Tuesday praised the Small Business Administration for the work it has done to help those affected by the Gulf Coast oil spill.
"From the very beginning of this disaster, the SBA has acted quickly to assist fishermen and fishing-dependent small businesses. They're offering low-interest loans and deferrals of existing loans," the president said. "And while small businesses are encouraged to file claims with BP, these loans and deferrals can provide much needed temporary assistance."
The comments came at a Rose Garden event celebrating National Small Business Week, a tradition dating back to President John F. Kennedy.
Administration officials have expressed frustration with the slow response in the Gulf, but insist that BP should remain in charge due to its expertise and the fact that it has access to the proper equipment.
But the federal government's confidence in BP -- which is responsible for the cost of cleanup and is liable for damages -- is of little comfort to locals who rely on the sea to make a living.
"One-hundred million pounds of shellfish is produced in this area," explains Lafitte, LA Mayor Tim Kerner. "So when BP doesn't try to stop it... and the federal government lets it up to BP to stop it then shame on somebody."
In a press conference Monday, Louisiana Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu sought to reassure her constituents that help is on the way.
"If you made 50 thousand dollars last year, and you can't work this year, BP is going to write you a check for 50-thousand dollars. If your business made a-million dollars last year, and you can't make that million dollars this year, BP is going to make your business whole."
CALLING ON CONGRESS
Flanked by small business owners in the Rose Garden ceremony, Mr. Obama asked Congress to pass a $30 billion small business jobs package designed to increase lending and borrowing initiatives.
The president characterized the legislation as non-partisan, and asked lawmakers to put aside party differences to pass a bill that will spark job growth.
"Government can't create jobs, but it can help create the conditions for small businesses to grow and thrive and hire more workers. Government can't guarantee a company's success, but it can knock down the barriers that prevent small business owners from getting loans or investing in the future."
Republicans accuse the president of lacking a real plan to put Americans back to work.
"We have been hearing for a long time about next we're going to pivot to jobs," said Texas Senator John Cornyn. "But jobs always seems to slip in favor of other things the American people don't believe are quite as urgent."