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GOVERNOR BLANCO LAUNCHES BUSINESS RECOVERY GRANT & LOAN PROGRAM

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

NEW ORLEANS, LA, January 23, 2007 -- Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and officials from Louisiana Economic Development (LED) and the Louisiana Recovery Authority (LED) announced that applications will be accepted beginning today for the new $138 million Business Recovery Grant & Loan Program. The pilot program is designed to help small businesses still struggling in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The deadline for submitting completed grant applications is Feb. 16 at 5 p.m. Loan applications will be accepted until available funds are depleted. Business may be eligible for both the loan and grant programs. Applications for both must be submitted in person at one of the intake centers established by participating community-based financial organizations.

Today's announcement at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center in New Orleans was followed by an orientation and application workshop to help business owners evaluate their eligibility and understand the application process. Additional workshops will be held in other parts of the state. A 24-hour toll-free assistance hotline, 1.877.217.1777, will begin operation today. The latest information and updates regarding the program are also available at LED's website, LouisianaForward.com.

"Today we announce another program designed to get cash into the hands of our small businesses struggling to regain their footing in this recovery," says Governor Blanco. "This business recovery program has been designed by business leaders to help the most challenged local companies in South Louisiana. Revitalizing our economy is a sound investment that will encourage more citizens to rebuild."

Eligibility will be determined by business size, geographic location, operation prior to Katrina and/or Rita, and economic impact suffered. Applications for grants and loans will then be reviewed for eligibility and completeness by participating community-based financial organizations. Final assessment for grant approval will be conducted by an independent review panel comprised of business and community leaders from impacted regions served by the program. The panel's participants will represent the diversity of businesses from the regions in both sector makeup and business type. Information regarding eligibility and frequently asked questions is also available on LED's website.

"From the beginning, our office has fought for small business grants, and we are eager to get these funds into the hands of small business owners," said Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu. "On February 2nd, our third annual Cultural Economy Summit will feature a clinic for small businesses engaged in the tourism and cultural industries on how to apply for these funds - with experts on hand to help fill out grant application paperwork."

State officials recognize the current limitations of the pilot program, and intend to pursue additional federal funding to extend the program beyond its current $138 million capacity.

Business owners interested in more information can find further details at LouisianaForward.com. The 24-hour toll-free hotline 1.877.217.1777 offers answers to questions about prequalification and the application process ONLY. Calling the hotline or registering for email updates about the program via LouisianaForward.com do not constitute filing an application.

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