WASHINGTON – The United States Chamber of Commerce yesterday announced the endorsement of a bill introduced by Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneruship. The Southeast Hurricanes Small Business Disaster Relief Act of 2010, S.2986, would authorize the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to waive up to $15,000 in interest payments on 2005/2008 business disaster loans from Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The legislation is co-sponsored by Senator Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Senator Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

The Chamber noted that, “The recent economic downturn has frustrated many attempts by small businesses in the Gulf Coast region to recover from the back-to-back disasters they have experienced in recent years. The limited additional relief that this bill would offer could be an important factor in the survival for many of these businesses and further help to stabilize a region that has been hard hit.”

Under the bill, SBA would be required to prioritize applications for businesses with 50 employees or less and businesses that re-opened between September 2005 and October 2006 (for the 2005 hurricanes) or September 2008 and December 2008 (for the 2008 hurricanes). This priority would ensure that SBA targets assistance for truly small businesses or those “pioneer” businesses that re-opened immediately after the storms. Businesses would still be responsible for the principal and the remaining interest.

Senator Landrieu, SBA Administrator Karen Mills, and Congressman Charlie Melancon, La.-03, yesterday visited with local Louisiana officials and businesses in St. Bernard Parish. During the meeting, fishermen and related businesses impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill discussed the need for additional assistance with loans from previous disasters.

“The U.S. Chamber’s endorsement is an encouraging step forward for this important bill, which helps inject immediate capital into these small businesses – some having survived two or three storms,” Senator Landrieu said. “Now that many of these same businesses are facing another disaster with the oil spill, I believe this targeted relief provides a lifeline for business owners and their employees.”

According to SBA disaster loan data, this program could help up to 16,000 Gulf Coast businesses, and create or save as many as 60,000 jobs. Congressman Melancon, D-La., has introduced the House companion bill (H.R. 4609).

A copy of the U.S. Chamber’s endorsement letter can be viewed by clicking here.