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Our SW La. businesses need help right now

Posted by: George Swift on Sunday, September 27, 2020

Printed in the 9/27/2020 edition of the American Pres 

Businesses in Southwest Louisiana that were damaged by Hurricane Laura need help fast. Unfortunately one of the programs that could help small businesses, The Louisiana Recovery Grant Program, apparently has been oversubscribed and no funds are available.

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced Friday he was requesting the state legislature to reallocate $175 million from that fund to be used for unemployment compensation claims and to help our local governments and businesses. Whether those funds are available will fall to the Louisiana Legislature, which goes into session Sept. 28. Our Southwest Delegation understands the impact on our businesses and they will work for business assistance. We need a state program to allow the Hurricane-impacted businesses to get some quick funds so our area businesses can stay in operation.

Without help, a lot of our valuable businesses will close. Not only do these businesses provide goods and services for us, they employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. Local governments also benefit from badly need sales and property tax to offset the unexpected expenses incurred from Laura.

Our five-parish region of Southwest Louisiana has been severely impacted by the triple threat of COVID-19, Hurricane Laura with more hurricanes possible, and the election-year economy.

The year started optimistically but is challenging all of us like never before. The fighting Southwest Louisiana spirit and unity seems to ramp up in disasters such as Hurricane Rita, and is once again on display. The outpouring of volunteers, church and civic groups coming to help, and neighbors helping neighbors is overwhelming and very much appreciated.

The Chamber SWLA and SWLA Alliance are advocating for business recovery assistance for our industries, retail establishments, restaurants and bars, and service companies.

Over 200,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus … that’s the population of the entire amount of folks living in Calcasieu Parish. And by year’s end more than all of the population in our five-parish region will have perished from that disease. Let that sink in a moment. More than the number of all persons in Calcasieu have died nationwide due to coronavirus. This disease is still around while we are dealing with hurricane recovery. We are told by our state and area medical professionals to wear masks maintain social distancing.

So that’s first. We must save lives. Then it’s on to business recovery. The U.S. Congress is at a stalemate and is nowhere close to a compromise on passing Phase 4 of the CARES Act or other relief legislation by other names. This area needs another round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) so our businesses can get forgivable loans, such as done after Rita, to pay employees and keep them employed. State and local governments need additional funding to help them with the expenses they have incurred in the recovery.

Louisiana Laura-impacted parishes need an emergency appropriation.

Our local area elected officials have been excellent in communicating with each other and to the public through regular briefings. The employees of the cities and parishes have exhibited a terrific effort in restoring water, removing debris, garbage pickup and much more. The Louisiana National Guard, Police, Sheriff’s Department, and Fire Departments have been tremendous.

The electric systems were destroyed and the utilities are rebuilding as fast as possible. Suddenlink has been taken to task for their slow response in restoring cable and internet service, which is now a vital service for students and businesses. The CEO came to SWLA and announced a restoration timetable and explained how they are moving ahead rebuilding the total devastation of the Suddenlink system.

The Chamber SWLA and Economic Development Alliance have established a Business Recovery Center at The SEED Center, 4310 Ryan Street in Lake Charles. Due to the COVID-19 issues, we are asking that appointments be made by calling 337-433-3632. Please do not “drop in.”

At the center we will have computers to assist those businesses who need them for completing online applications to the SBA and Louisiana loan programs.

We are here to assist our Chamber SWLA members as well as any business in the five parishes of our region.

With perseverance and unity SWLA will rebuild better and stronger.

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