WASHINGTON -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) continued to push for a combination of federal economic aid and disaster assistance for small businesses in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama recovering in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Senators Kerry and Mary Landrieu (D-La.) led a bipartisan group of Senators in passing a small business relief package for Gulf-area small businesses last week as part of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) appropriations bill. Because the House considered its version of the bill before Hurricane Katrina struck, this issue must be resolved in conference.

“It’s outrageous to think that after spending $63 billion, Congress has yet to provide a penny for small business relief. We can't turn our backs on America’s small businesses. Small business owners in the Gulf region have put their hearts and souls into their businesses. We just cannot allow Washington to stand idly by while their hopes and dreams vanish,” said Kerry. “This is a smart investment that will help speed up the recovery, get people back to work, and jump start the regional economy.”

Kerry’s comments came during a Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee hearing on the impact of Hurricane Katrina on small businesses. It is estimated that more than 400,000 jobs have been lost and 200,000 small businesses were hurt by Katrina. Kerry and Landrieu have also urged the Administration to extend the deadline for the Small Business Administration’s Physical Disaster Loans for an additional six months beyond the October 28, 2005, deadline. The Administration has yet to respond to their requests.

The Committee also heard from small business owners from Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, including John Rowland, owner of Southern Hospitality Systems, Inc. in New Orleans; Ms. Alta Baker, CEO of Safe Haven Enterprises in Jennings, La.; Woodrow J. Wilson Jr., President of Gulf South Animated Motion Technology Inc. in New Orleans; Michele Sutton, owner of Fairway Ventures in Hammond, La.; Richard Harris, owner of Harris Homes in Ocean Springs, Miss.; and, Timothy Swindall, Vice President of SWR, Inc. in Troy, Ala.

Also testifying at the hearing was Hector Barreto, Administrator of the SBA; Herb Mitchell, the SBA’s Associate Administrator for the Office of Disaster Assistance; and, Mary Lynn Wilkerson, State Director of the Louisiana Small Business Development Center.