WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, Chair of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Disaster Recovery Subcommittee, sent a letter today to Small Business Administration (SBA) head Karen Mills on the progress of 2008 disaster recovery reform efforts. The letter comes after a field hearing Senator Landrieu chaired last month in Galveston, Texas, one year after Hurricane Ike devastated the region. The hearing compared the response to Hurricane Ike with the response three years earlier to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“By all accounts, the SBA was better prepared and deployed staff quickly following Ike – a marked difference than its sluggish and ineffective response following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita of 2005,” Senator Landrieu said. “The SBA took an average of five days to process home disaster loans and 12 days to process business disaster loans following Ike. This is in contrast to up to 90 days for home loans and 70 days for business loans following Katrina.”
Following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, Sen. Landrieu heard from countless Gulf Coast businesses that were frustrated by the Federal government's response to the storms. She led a three-year bipartisan effort to enact significant disaster assistance reforms to the SBA. Sen. Landrieu successfully included provisions in the 2008 Farm Bill that directed the SBA to be more responsive and transparent. These reforms increased the SBA disaster loan limits, gave the agency new response tools and reduced the red tape that plagued the agency following Katrina and Rita.
While the response to Hurricane Ike improved compared to that of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita due to reforms spearheaded by Senator Landrieu and implemented since the 2005 storms, the Senator noted in her letter that some of the reforms had not yet been implemented and much work still needed to be done to improve disaster response efforts. Further reforms include: improving public awareness of SBA disaster programs, better coordination among Federal/State agencies, and the implementation of a disaster loan pilot program which will be funded by Congress this year. Sen. Landrieu also requested an SBA ‘lessons learned’ review conducted after the 2005 storms and Congressionally-mandated reports on contracting, improving the SBA disaster loan program.
U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan were also copied on the letter. These Cabinet officials are leading a six-month Administration review of all Federal disaster recovery programs, including the SBA.
“As U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan begin a six-month Administration review of all Federal disaster recovery programs, I believe that the SBA has an important role in responding to future disasters,” the Senator said. “For my part, I remain committed to ensuring the SBA has sufficient resources and tools necessary to provide timely and effective assistance following these disasters.”
To read the letter sent today, please click here.
To read more about Senator Landrieu’s September 25, 2009 field hearing in Galveston, Texas, please click here.