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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Hector Barreto
Hector Barreto
Administrator, Small Business Administration

September 20, 2005

Hector Barreto

Good afternoon. I'm glad to participate again on Ask the White House. I look forward to answering your questions, so let's begin.

John, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana writes:
Dear Administrator Barreto,Will you be visiting the affected areas? I think it is good if you do.

Thank you, John

Hector Barreto
Yes, John. I was there just yesterday and am planning to return again soon - and often. We are working closely with the Louisiana Secretary of Economic Development as well as officials in Mississippi and Alabama. We are planning several initiatives in the coming days to provide every resource possible to the affected states. Our committment stands strong and long-term. Thank you for your question.

Sheila, from new orleqns writes:
will the sba offer grants to small business for working capital that will not have to be re paid? how can we repay when we have no income? 6 months would be helpful in this unusual situation instead of a loan which creates more hardship

sheila borne, owner avenue mortgage since 1985 a mortgage broker in downtown nola, ready to go back and rebuild

Hector Barreto
Sheila, there will be a number of organizations that can provide grants - FEMA just to name one. SBA is not authorized to provide grants, only loans. We understand that it will be some time before small businesses can begin repaying loans, even if they are low-interest and over a long time horizon. We have extended our start date before principal and interest will be paid back. We will work with the affected businesses on a case-by-case basis to structure the best option for them. Thank you and God speed.

Cliff, from Brimfield, Ohio writes:
Administrater Barreto: If I was a small business man in the Gulf Cost. What type of help would or could I expect to get from the federal govenment? And how long would it take to get it? Thank You

Hector Barreto
Cliff, you could immediately apply for our disaster assistance loans. You may be eligible for loans up to $1.5 million for physical damage to your business or economic injury (i.e. lost business). These are low-interest loans as low as four percent and can be for terms up to thirty years. Besides disaster loans, SBA may provide working capital and fixed asset financing (i.e. equipment and real estate), offer comprehensive training and counseling, and we may be able to help identify a potential contract for your business. These are just some examples of the assistance that SBA can provide to small businesses in the Gulf States region in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Charlotte, from Montrose,Mississippi writes:
How do you go about getting a grant to open a small business or fix up your house to be livible.I tried every where to get the info I need but everyone wants money to give this to me.

Hector Barreto
Dear Charlotte. FEMA is the first responder agency that may be able to provide short-term grants for cases such as yours. Please call 1.800.621.FEMA or visit their website at - there is no charge for this assistance. I wish you much luck and may God Bless you.

Fenq.yuan, from China writes:
Could you pleae give me a brief introduction about the small business system?Thank you

Hector Barreto
Nee how Fenq Yuan. The SBA assists, counsels, advises and protects the interests of 25 million small businesses throughout the United States. We have many tools to help small businesses of all sizes. We often refer to these tools as the Three C's - capital, capacity and contracts. For more information on all of our programs, please visit

Karen, from Houston, Texas writes:
As a small business owner in Houston where many of the evacuees are being housed, how can I help them get back on their feet? Are there any programs through the government I am eligable for?

Hector Barreto
Karen, thank you for your offer. We sincerely appreciate all that Houston and communties all across this country are doing for our evacuees - it's nothing short of awe-inspiring. There is still a big need for volunteers. In fact, we are partnering with the Red Cross to identify small business persons who can help in one of the many Red Cross centers in twenty affected states across this country. Please go to the Red Cross website to sign up.

On another note, you as a small business may be eligible for many of our SBA programs. For individual assistance, please contact out Houston office directly at 713.773.6500. Thank you for all that you're doing to help the affected small businesses get back on their feet.

Jim, from Simi Valley, California writes:
I have heard that people are not getting the assistance they need from the government in the Hurricane affected areas. What and how is the SBA helping these people and determining who is in immediate need?

Hector Barreto
Jim, at the SBA we have already received over one million referrals for information on our disaster loans. These are not only for small businesses but for homeowners and renters as well. We are processing these requests as quickly as possible. When a loan isn't feasible, we are referring individuals to grant providers and other SBA partners for additional assistance. As the President has said, we will do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to provide assitance to all of the victims in the affected areas.

Jennifer, from Nashville writes:
Dear Mr. Barreto,I heard the President will be visiting the affected areas today. Will you be with him? What exactly is going to take place when he is down there and while you down there?

Thank you, Jennifer

Hector Barreto
I was in Louisiana just yesterday and am visiting our Disaster Recovery Center in Houston this afternoon. Today, the President will be making his fifth trip to the area to continue to work with local leaders to develop the most effective and expedient response possible. He will continue to discuss his plans for the Gulf Opportunity Zone, or the "GO Zones," to bring these communities back stronger than ever as soon as is humanly possible.

Bob, from Vienna, VA writes:
I own a small hardware store in Virginia. As a small business owner, I know how difficult it can be even in good financial times. With the severe destruction down south, how can small business owners gain assistance from the government so they can help do what we do best--kick start the economy and feel like home. Thank you for your time Administrator. Bob

Hector Barreto
Bob, the SBA has been assisting small businesses for over fifty-two years to do just that. The President knows that small business is truly the engine that fuels the economy. At the SBA, we can provide capital in the form of loans, technical assistance of all types, and we can even faciliate contract opportunities with the government and private sector. You should visit our Washington, D.C. SBA office or our website at for information on all of our programs and services. Good luck on your business!

Mary, from Charleston, SC writes:
Dear Hector,I know there is another hurricane coming and I can only imagine how scary it is. What is the SBA doing to help businesses in advance of this storm?

Thank you Mary

Hector Barreto
Thank you, Mary. The SBA has been in response mode for the last three weeks. I was in the disaster areas just yesterday working with federal, state and local officials in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. We're already processing low-interest disaster loans for homeowners, renters and small businesses to assist them in rebuilding. The information on all of our disaster programs may be found at You can never predict precisely what a disaster will do but I assure you that we are monitoring the current activity with regards to Hurricane Rita and we are making preparations to respond to that hurricane as well.

It has been my honor to participate in this session of Ask the White House. Once again, President Bush is providing us with the leadership to get through this unprecedented time of challenge for our country - both at home and around the world. Sometimes when bad things happen, good things can come from it. We've seen countless examples of neighbors coming together to help each other come back stronger than ever. It's one of the things that makes the United States of America so special.

I'm also proud of the role SBA has always played in difficult times during disaster in our country. SBA is America's Disaster Resource - Helping to Rebuild Homes, Businesses and Lives.

Thanks again for your suggestions and generosity.

Hector V. Barreto