WASHINGTON – United States Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Chair Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today introduced a bill, Gulf Coast Disadvantaged Business Relief Act of 2011. The bill focuses on assisting minority businesses in the Gulf Coast. The bill is the companion bill to H.R. 2808 introduced by U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond, D-La., with two original cosponsors, Representatives Terri Sewell, D-Al., and Bennie Thompson, D- Miss.

“Our recent natural disasters on the East Coast stand as a reminder for the struggle small businesses are still facing in the hurricane ravaged regions of the Gulf Coast,” Senator Landrieu said. “It is imperative that we provide contracting assistance to our local minority businesses and improve the structure of the 8(a) Business Development program. I look forward to renewing my fight this Congress and I am pleased to see my colleagues in the House of Representatives joining together with me to help rebuild the 125,000 businesses impacted from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.”

The 8(a) Business Development initiative, created under the Small Business Administration, helps minority entrepreneurs access Federal contracts. These contracts are vital to the revival of these impacted areas. However, as currently structured the program allows businesses to participate for a limited length of time, nine years, after which they can never re-apply nor get back into the program. The Gulf Coast Disadvantaged Business Relief Act of 2011 would tackle this problem and include the following provisions:

• The bill extends 8(a) eligibility for program participants in Katrina/Rita-impacted areas in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama by 24 months.

• The bill would also apply to any areas in the state of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama that have been designated by the Administrator of the Small Business Administration as a disaster area as a result of Hurricanes Katrina or Rita.

• Lastly, the bill would require the Administrator of the Small Business Administration to ensure that every small business participating in the 8(a) program before the date of enactment of the Act is reviewed and brought into compliance with this Act. This requirement would ensure that any eligible previous 8(a) participants will be allowed back into the program.

The key provisions would ensure that these businesses continue to play a vital role in rebuilding their communities.

Senator Landrieu introduced a similar provision as part of S. 3285, The Disadvantaged Business Disaster Eligibility Act, during the 110th Congress and as part of S. 2731 last Congress. During the 109th Congress, this proposal passed the House of Representatives, but the bill was not enacted into law before the Congress adjourned that year.