DISADVANTAGED BUSINESS DISASTER ELIGIBILITY ACT -- (House of Representatives - March 26, 2007)
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Mr. CHABOT. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 1468, the Disadvantaged Business Disaster Eligibility Act. This legislation, as the chairwoman indicated, would simply extend for 18 months the period of time that 8(a) Small Business Development Program participants who enrolled in the program prior to August 29 of 2005 could stay in the program by 18 months if they had their businesses primarily located in the area devastated by Hurricane Katrina.
The 8(a) Small Business Development Program, administered by the Small Business Administration, provides a useful mechanism for aspiring entrepreneurs and existing small business owners who, for social or economic reasons, may not have the same opportunities other small business owners have had and face challenging barriers to their success.
Entrepreneurs who participate in the 8(a) program undergo an extensive 9-year process, where they obtain specialized business training, counseling, marketing assistance, and high-level executive development. They also receive additional help in the form of low-interest loans, access to government surplus office equipment, and bonding assistance.
The Small Business Development Program provides many of the tools needed for any small business to succeed. Most significantly, the program assists these entrepreneurs in obtaining Federal Government contracts as a base from which to grow their businesses. Given the devastation to the gulf coast region by Hurricane Katrina, access to Federal Government contracts constitutes an important component of the region's rebirth, and I think we all agree that we all want to see the rebirth in that area occur.
Tragically, as every American remembers, the late summer of 2005 proved to be one of the most catastrophic in American history. The 9.7 million Americans residing on the gulf coast of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi were victims of an unprecedented natural disaster, which, unfortunately, has become a nightmare that is etched in all our memories and a daily challenge for those who lived through it.
The storms of 2005 drowned 80 percent of New Orleans in seawater, killed in excess of 1,600 people, destroyed more than 200,000 gulf coast homes, and displaced more than 1 million of our fellow Americans. Starting a new business is challenging under normal circumstances. Only two-thirds of them make it through their first 2 years. And needless to say, the devastation along the gulf coast compounds this difficulty exponentially.
This legislation provides some additional time for those businesses facing the 9-year participation deadline provided for in the 8(a) program to get back on their feet. Nothing in the Small Business Act currently allows for an extension of participation as a result of extraordinary circumstances such as those created by Hurricane Katrina.
For business owners that may not have had access to their businesses or their customers for months, the rigidity of the Small Business Act seems unduly harsh. An additional 18 months of assistance to firms who face an uphill battle before the storms hit who are now hanging on by a thread after the storms have passed is truly the least that we can do.
Today I encourage my colleagues to support this necessary legislation.
Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
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