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Post-Katrina funds going to big corporates outside of area

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What a brilliant way to help rebuild Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. I am always mystified when I hear small business people actually believe that the GOP gives a damn about them, because it's quite clear they only care about the largest companies and their best interest. For a group of people who talk about being pro-business, they ought to change that to pro-big business and anti-small business. As always it comes back to financial support from the biggest because it's an easier target than rounding up thousands of small businesses.

So now we have a situation where workers who are trying to re-build after Katrina are going to get stiffed with crappy wages (that should make it easy for them) and now local businesses who desperately need the influx of opportunity are getting stiffed as well.

But already the trend toward out-of-state firms is clear, despite pledges by administration officials that federal funds for Katrina relief will become an engine of local economic redevelopment. Among the contracts analyzed, 3.8 percent of the money went to companies that listed an Alabama address, 2.8 percent to firms in Louisiana and just 1.8 percent went for Mississippi contractors. Taken together, that amounts to less than $200 million.

"The large federal agencies know the large, national corporations -- people who have access. The smaller, local companies do not have that access," said Rep. Charles W. "Chip" Pickering Jr. (R-Miss.). "So the large corporate players are getting the contracts. And the small, local ones that need to put people back to work are at a disadvantage."

The Department of Homeland Security estimates that as of early last week, 72 percent of the $1.6 billion that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had committed so far to contracts for Hurricane Katrina relief went to small firms nationwide in either prime or subcontracts, said department spokesman Larry Orluskie. But he said only 6 percent of the funds have gone to companies in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama -- a region where small firms make up a disproportionately large share of the economy.

"Considering the amount of devastation, having 6 percent capable of doing it is pretty good," Orluskie said. "But we want more."[Note from Chris: Wow. The bar always seems to be so low for this team.]

George Washington University contracting law professor Steven L. Schooner said lawmakers have taken actions since Katrina hit that have disadvantaged small firms.

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