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Zack Hutchins
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September 8, 2005

'Hanging on by a thread': Louisiana's stricken business community asks the nation's businesses for help

The business community of Louisiana has asked businesses and business leaders across the nation for new donations to support relief efforts in the state, which is struggling to recover from damage done by Hurricane Katrina.

"In 24 hours, we lost about a third of our economy here, and I am sure my colleagues in [Mississippi and Alabama] were seriously affected as well," Dan Juneau of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) said in a Sept. 8 e-mail to other business and manufacturing associations around the country.

The e-mail asked other state business groups to ask their states' business communities to help seek donations to a new Small Business Disaster Relief Fund.

"[Funds] will provide gap funding to cover things that insurance will not cover that are vital for our small businesses to begin operating again," Juneau wrote.

All small business in the entire affected region of the Central Gulf Coast can apply for assistance through the fund. Applicants for funds must have had fewer than 100 employees on August 29, 2005; they must be private sector, for-profit entities; and they must be in one of the federally designated disaster parishes or counties.

Donations to the fund can be made via credit card at LABI's Web site, www.labi.org. Alternatively, checks can be mailed to: Small Business Disaster Relief Fund/BRAF, 402 N. 4th St., Baton Rouge, La 70802.

Grant applications will be accepted beginning on Sept. 14 through LABI's Web site, www.labi.org. To ensure fairness in the process, applications will be evaluated processed by volunteers from the CPA Society, the Independent Insurance Agency, and the local Bar Association who will not know the name of the applying company, Juneau said.

"We can really help a lot of small business get back into business with this fund and save jobs for their workers," Juneau wrote. "Anything you can do to help make this a success will be greatly appreciated by hundreds of small businesses down here that are hanging on by a thread."

Here is some information on other organizations that are providing information on relief efforts and/or accepting gifts to that cause.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce: The U.S. Chamber is coordinating an effort to seek relief donations from the business community from www.uschamber.com/ccc/0508katrina.htm.

The Web site includes a “tip sheet” where private-sector assistance providers can quickly access how businesses can help respond to the disaster, as well as the most current relief needs.

Federal Emergency Management Agency: The Department of Homeland Security, through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), is also coordinating efforts to provide assistance to communities affected by Hurricane Katrina.

The agencies have activated the National Emergency Resource Registry (NERR) which allows organizations, businesses, individuals and agencies to donate resources to response agencies. More information about the NERR, and FEMA efforts can be found at www.swern.gov/emergency/.

The Salvation Army: Donations can also be made through the Salvation Army, which has detailed information on giving options available from its home page, www.salvationarmyusa.org/.

American Chamber of Commerce Executives: ACCE has created a "message board conference, which is similar to a list-serv, to function as a clearinghouse for keeping the nation's community of chambers informed on how chambers in the Gulf Coast region are coping with the effects of the hurricane. More information is available from www.acce.org.

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