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.
| October 11, 2005 |
It's my pleasure to join you today for my second Ask the White House online discussion.
Today I announced the formation of the Department of Commerce Hurricane Contracting Information Center (HCIC) that will help U.S. businesses, especially small, minority and women-owned businesses participate in the Gulf Coast rebuilding efforts.
The goal of the center is to make sure that those seeking to join the rebuilding efforts can navigate federal agencies and bid for contracts with ease. The HCIC includes a website (www.RebuildingTheGulfCoast.gov) and a call center (1-888-4USADOC) to help businesses that are interested in learning more about how to participate in the contracting process. I encourage anyone interested in learning more to call the center or go to our website.
I'll take your questions now.
Frank, from Philadelphia, PA writes:
So far, President Bush has asked for, and Congress has approved, some $62 billion in disaster relief. Additional help is on the way, including tax relief and housing assistance.
In addition, the President is proposing a number of initiatives to help rebuild the Gulf Coast. These include a Gulf Opportunity Zone that would give immediate tax incentives for job creation and tax relief and loan guarantees for small businesses, including minority-owned enterprises. He has also proposed Worker Recovery Accounts that would provide up to $5,000 that can be used for job training, education, and child-care expenses.
And an Urban Homesteading Act that identifies federal property in the region that can be used to build homes for lower-income citizens.
At the Commerce Department, I'm focused on working with businesses and state and local officials to get their economies going again. For example, today we announced a new Hurricane Contracting Information Center that will help small and medium-sized businesses bid on federal contracts. The center will be especially helpful for minority and small businesses that want to participate in the rebuilding effort. The center has a website (www.RebuildingTheGulfCoast.gov) and a toll-free number (1-888-4USADOC).
dorinda, from old hickory, tn writes:
Despite the destruction and tragic loss of life in the Gulf there is a lot of goodwill taking place. Americans across the country are contributing their time, resources and energy to help rebuild the region. I have been very impressed with the outpouring of support and generosity of our citizens.
In addition to those efforts, the Bush administration is working closely with local and state officials to ensure that they have the necessary tools to do the job of rebuilding. We are committed to the region and we are dedicating the money and personnel to get the region back on its feet.
Today, the President took his eighth trip to the Gulf to check on the progress that is being made and we are seeing progress and hope in the region.
I, too, have traveled to the region and I continue to speak with local leaders and business owners about what the administration and the commerce department can do to help. The President has asked us to think outside the box and we are thinking big.
As said I previously, today I announced the creation of the Hurricane Contracting Information Center to help minority, women and small businesses participate in the Gulf Coast rebuilding efforts. The center will help these businesses get the information and put them in contact with agencies overseeing the reconstruction in the Gulf Coast.
Despite the challenges we are very optimistic and we are working hard.
Denise, from Kennesaw, Ga writes:
As I said earlier in response to Franks question, the President has proposed the following three initiatives, among others, to Congress to help with the rebuilding efforts: creating Gulf Opportunity Zonesthat would give immediate tax incentives for job creation and tax relief and loan guarantees for small businesses, including minority-owned enterprises; creating Worker Accounts; and the Urban Homesteading Act. As the President has said, it will be private sector investments that will help rebuild and strengthen the Gulf Coast.
Job creation in the Gulf Region and around the country is a top priority of the President. In the Gulf, we are working very hard to help families recover, we are helping businesses to get back in business to sell their products and services and were also helping workers get back to work. We know that many have been dislocated due to the hurricanes and were still assessing the impact that it will have on economy.
If theres a message Id like to convey it is that our national economy had strong momentum prior to the hurricanes and the national economy will be the economic lifeline to rebuild the Gulf Region.
john, from u.s.a. writes:
What are you planning to do to help rebuild commerce in the gulf coast?
Thank you, joseph (please call me john)
The Department of Commerce Hurricane Contracting Information Center will help U.S. businesses bid on federal contracts in the Gulf Coast by serving as a single point of contact for small, minority and women-owned businesses will be able to get information about potential contracts. I firmly believe that business will be the key to rebuilding the Gulf Coast states and we want to make sure they have the tools they need to participate in the rebuilding efforts.
benji, from houston writes:
Lacy, from hendersonville nc writes:
If youd like more information on what we do here, visit www.commerce.gov.
I applaud your interest in wanting to serve in government. I encourage you to get involved in student government, your local community and other civic interests. The important thing is to get involved.
Kevin, from Boca Raton, FL writes:
Now is the time to make sure we keep the fundamentals of our economy strong by passing the Presidents economic plan for the Gulf Coast so that jobs can be created and people in the region can get back to work.
Importantly, we need to prevent tax increases so that our economy continues to grow.
Daniel, from Lakeville, CT writes:
Ive already mentioned the Department of Commerces new Hurricane Contracting Information Center. However, we are also doing more. The Commerce Department has deployed three National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) response teams to survey priority channels and port locations to help ports re-open.
The Economic Development Administration is coordinating with FEMA to deploy up to $7 million to build new or improve existing infrastructure to aid in the economic recovery.
In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is making more than $170 million in emergency assistance available to agriculture producers. USDA is also making changes to its Marketing Assistance Loan Program, so producers can obtain on-farm grain storage on the ground in addition to grain bins and other normally approved structures.
The Small Business Administration has created an opportunity for businesses of all sizes to apply for an SBA disaster loan of up to $1.5 million to cover damages to the property, machinery, and inventory. The Department of Labor created the Katrina Recovery Job Connection to help workers transition back into employment. The sites purpose is to connect job seekers with employers. Labors Employee Benefits Security Administration with the Internal Revenue Service has announced an extension of a number of deadlines related to health plan coverage, giving employers additional time to make critical decisions.
These are just a few ways the federal government is helping to rebuild businesses in the Gulf Coast. There are many resources being made available to those who were affected. That is why I feel that the Hurricane Contracting Information Center will be a useful tool to companies because it will simplify and speed up the rebuilding efforts in the Gulf Coast.
Peter, from near new orleans writes:
The Minority Development Agency at the Department of Commerce has been informed that some minority owned firms are also participating in these contracts at the subcontracting level. It is our priority to see more local and small disadvantaged businesses getting Gulf Region recovery work. That is why FEMA has held outreach events in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi with small, local and minority-owned businesses; and why the Minority Business Development Agency is actively trying to identify and match minority owned businesses that have the infrastructure, capabilities, and qualifications to compete in the contracting process. Furthermore, the Department of Commerce is also leading the effort to provide a centralized location for contract information and support services with our website, www.RebuildingTheGulfCoast.gov.
Rebuilding the Gulf Coast is a long-term proposition. Our goal is to make sure every business that wants to participate in the rebuilding has a chance to offer their services.
leonard, from Tampa, Florida writes: