Hurricane recovery grants help small businesses

April 3, 2007
By Theresa Schmidt

Governor Kathleen Blanco came to Lake Charles to hand out grant money to small business people still struggling to recover.  R and Y Washateria on Opelousas Street is hardly a place you'd expect to see Louisiana's governor. But Kathleen Blanco came here to present a check to owner Ernest Willis to help his small business recover from Hurricane Rita. The governor told him, "Mr. Willis, I want to give you your first installment. It's a check for a little over $8671. Mr. Willis said he wants to buy some new equipment and I think fix the roof."

From Opelousas street, the governor visits Ad Solutions where Susan Dunn struggles to recover after being hit first by Katrina in Baton Rouge and then Rita in Lake Charles. Dunn was visibly choked up as she received her grant from the governor.  "Thank you for all of your hard work and serving us so diligently and remembering that we're over here. I have to say, like Ernest Hemingway, the sun also rises. Those were some rough storms, but we're still here," she told Blanco.

The grants are up to $20,000 and the recovery program also includes zero interest loans of up to $250,000. Next recipient Kirk Burleigh, whose fire and safety equipment business in Cameron parish was wiped out. He now operates out of the back of his truck. Blanco admits, "It's often times far too complicated for really small businesses to get help. I have a check for you in the amount of $10,000. It is a first installment."  To other businesses still struggling Burleigh advises, "There is hope out there. Keep striving, look around, ask questions. It's quite possible, there is help, there is hope."

When the grant application period closed in February more than 6000 grant applications and 1000 loan applications had been received. Letters are being set out to notify applicants whether they have been approved and if not how to appeal.

For more information on upcoming grant opportunities click here.

Blanco had lunch with members of the southwest Louisiana legislative delegation, Mcneese president Robert Hebert and others to discuss her legislative priorities in the upcoming session.