NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana – Today Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) joined Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) on a “Back to Business” tour of New Orleans East, an area with significant damage from Hurricane Katrina. After the tour, Landrieu and Kerry hosted a Small Business Roundtable with business owners, community leaders, representatives from the state and local departments of economic development, Chambers of Commerce, the Small Business Administration, and the banking community. Following is a statement from Kerry, Ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship:

“It’s impossible to convey the sheer destruction in New Orleans until you walk the streets, see the flood damage, and talk with business owners who are still struggling. New Orleans East was one of the most severely damaged neighborhoods, and more than eight months after Hurricane Katrina, we still have miles to go rebuilding this community. Despite this, I was touched by the spirit of the people of New Orleans. They are true heroes who have endured in the face of devastating loss, and who fight day and night to rebuild their great city.

“Enormous work remains to get New Orleans back in business creating jobs. Senator Landrieu and I are working on legislative proposals to get loan money into the hands of businesses and residents quickly and to expand access to federal contracts for Gulf Coast small businesses. We came here today to talk with small business owners to determine how best to get them and the entire Gulf Coast the tools they need for long-term recovery.

“Mary Landrieu loves this city. She lives and breathes New Orleans. We’re lucky to have her tireless leadership on Gulf Coast recovery and I will keep working with her to get the Gulf Coast back in business.”