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Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., a member of the Senate Small Business Committee made the following comments Thursday at a Small Business Committee hearing that focused on small businesses in the Gulf Coast region.

Statement of Senator Mike Enzi
Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship Hearing:
The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on Small Businesses
September 22, 2005

America is faced with responding to an event of epic proportions, a storm unlike anything seen in 150 years. In the days that have passed since Hurricane Katrina devastated so much of the Gulf Coast region of our country, we have all seen the impact this terrible storm has had on countless lives in the region.

More and more of us are witnessing firsthand the extent of the damage, including families and individuals returning to their homes and businesses. I was able to survey the damage in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama last Friday as part of a bipartisan Senate delegation. Even now, scores of volunteers have congregated in the area to feed the hungry, quench the thirst of the thirsty and repair the damage.

We continue to do our part in the Senate too. I am very pleased that Chairwoman Snowe has called this hearing. Now is not the time to play the blame game. We need to focus on immediate assistance and the rebuilding of the region. Instead, it is a time for us start the process of addressing the short and long term needs of the people who were devastated by the storm. I look forward to hearing from SBA Administrator Barreto and Associate Administrator Mitchell about what the SBA has accomplished in response to Katrina and what the next steps are in providing permanent solutions to the affected people and businesses. Thank you both for participating today, I look forward to your testimony and working with you both to speed the recovery effort.

In the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee which I chair, yesterday I introduced sweeping legislation with my Ranking Member Senator Kennedy. Our legislation, the Community Service Disaster Assistance Act of 2005 is a block grant program whose goal is to provide assistance to States and local communities with the intent of reducing poverty and revitalizing low-income communities. The programs are community governed, and fund initiatives to change conditions that perpetuate poverty, like unemployment, inadequate housing and poor nutrition. As a member of this committee, I look forward to working with my colleagues to address the needs of small businesses.

As a former Mayor, I have seen for myself the devastation caused by severe weather. Just last month Wright, Wyoming was hit by a tornado that did significant damage to the town. Plans to rebuild Wright are including support and cooperation on the local, state and federal level – much the same as this tragedy will. In Wright, I have seen the federal government do an outstanding job of working with the state and community leaders to start the process of rebuilding. This formula can be replicated in the Gulf Coast region. It will also call on us at the federal level to develop innovative and creative strategies that will cut through the red tape and provide the assistance that is needed quickly and efficiently.

That is why I am excited to hear from the second panel of small business owners and others that were directly impacted by Hurricane Katrina. We are looking forward to receiving their suggestions as to what we should do next as we work to produce a plan of action that will see us through the after effects of this storm – and provide us with a strategy we can use to respond to future such events.

Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy. Helping small businesses open their doors again will continue the healing process and jump start the economies of the affected areas. The SBA will play an integral part in this process. I look forward to the testimonies and suggestions that will be given today.