WASHINGTON – United States Senator Mary L. Landrieu, D-La., today announced that the Small Business Administration (SBA) will reopen the application period for SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans for small businesses impacted by the 2005 Gulf Coast hurricanes. Sen. Landrieu, a member of the Senate Small Business Committee and the Senate Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, which funds the SBA, included $25 million and the authorization to reopen the loans in the supplemental spending bill that passed last month.

Sen. Landrieu worked closely with Small Business Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., Financial Services Subcommittee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and the SBA to secure authorization and funding for the loans.

“Louisiana’s small businesses are performing an invaluable service for our communities by serving as the economic backbone for our recovery,” Sen. Landrieu said. “But since the 2005 hurricanes, our businesses have suffered because of a diminished population and the slow return of tourism. That is why I included this additional $25 million for economic injury loans for our businesses in the supplemental appropriations bill last month. I thank Chairman Kerry and Administrator Preston for working with me to get these loans to the people that need them.”

Sen. Kerry said, “Mary Landrieu’s tireless leadership made it possible to secure this recovery assistance for small businesses fighting to survive. I will continue to work with Senator Landrieu to pass additional legislation to reduce red tape and to give small firms devastated by disaster the resources to get them back on their feet.”

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs) have a cap of $1.5 million at a 4 percent interest rate with up to 30- year terms. Businesses that received EIDL loans in the earlier application period must count those loans toward the overall cap. Only small businesses in operation when Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma struck are eligible to apply for the loans. Pre-existing small businesses located in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas counties and parishes that were declared disaster areas after Hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma can apply for the EIDLs until December 31, 2007. EIDL assistance is available only to small businesses to help them cover ordinary expenses the company would have been able to handle if the disaster had not occurred.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, more than 125,000 businesses were disrupted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. In Louisiana alone, more than 81,000 small businesses were damaged or economically impacted, with 18,000 businesses catastrophically destroyed by the storms.

In St. Bernard Parish, one of the Louisiana parishes hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, only 370 businesses had re-opened as of April – 1,400 businesses were in operation before the storm. In addition, only 38 percent of the pre-Katrina population has returned to the parish, according to state statistics. Some of the other hardest-hit parishes in Louisiana are also experiencing similar population declines: Cameron Parish's population is 74 percent, Plaquemines Parish 68 percent, and Orleans Parish 43 percent.