WASHINGTON -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) is pushing the administration to act quickly to help small business owners impacted by Hurricane Katrina. In the four weeks since the hurricane struck the Gulf Coast, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has approved only four loans for small businesses -- none of which are in Louisiana.

“First FEMA was asleep at the switch and now the SBA is telling businesses to wait. The Administration has to give the SBA more resources -- and must coordinate agencies -- so that small businesses and the Gulf Coast economy can get back to work now,” said Kerry, lead Democrat on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.

Of the 26,103 applications received by the SBA, just 142 have been approved -- none of them to small businesses in Louisiana, the state with the most number of small businesses affected. Of the 142 loans approved by the SBA, only four were actually for small businesses -- two in Mississippi and two in Alabama. The rest of the loans were made to homeowners.

Kerry also heard from witnesses at a hearing last week that small businesses are being told it will take months to get disaster loan assistance.

In a letter sent yesterday by Kerry -- along with Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) -- to Mark Everson, Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the bipartisan group of Senators asked the agency to work with Small Business Development Center counselors in the Gulf Coast that are helping small-business owners apply for disaster assistance.

The letter asks the IRS to send an employee to each of the Small Business Development Centers that “have made it a priority to help small businesses impacted by Katrina fill out the appropriate forms so that they can obtain financial assistance as quickly as possible.”

“Many small business owners have lost everything. Their financial records have been completely destroyed,” said Kerry. “Putting an IRS employee on the ground will give devastated small businesses access to their tax records and hopefully speed up the lending process.”

Snowe is Chair of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. Grassley and Baucus are Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Finance Committee, which oversees the IRS.

To read Kerry’s letter, please click here.