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Lawmakers pushing for disaster relief

MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST — U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) are cosponsoring legislation aimed to help thousands of small businesses on the Gulf Coast by waiving interest payments on federal disaster loans issued after recent hurricanes.

Cochran and Wicker are primary cosponsors of the Southeast Hurricanes Small Business Disaster Relief Act, which was introduced March 28 by Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.). The measure would direct the Small Business Administration (SBA) to establish a disaster relief program for small businesses in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama and Texas that were affected by disaster areas created by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike.

“The economic recovery, both on the Gulf Coast and nationally, has been stubbornly slow. Easing the federal loan burden on small businesses that quickly rebuilt after successive hurricanes should help with job creation. I support this legislation as a worthwhile tool to continue rejuvenating the economy of Southern Mississippi and the Gulf Coast region,” Cochran said.

The legislation authorizes the SBA to implement a Southeast Hurricanes Small Business Disaster Relief Program for waiving up to $15,000 in interest payments due on SBA disaster loans issued after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. The bill also includes a provision to address businesses that incurred significant economic injury from the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster last year.

A business could apply to have its interest payments waived for up to three years, though applications would not be accepted after March 31, 2012.

The legislation would give priority to small businesses with 50 or fewer employees. Priority would also be granted to firms that resumed business operations in a declared disaster area between Sept. 2005 and Oct. 2006 for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and between Sept. 2008 and Jan. 2009 for Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

This legislation has been referred to the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, which Landrieu chairs.

Source: Sen. Thad Cochran’s Office

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