Feb. 15, 2007 --  A lack of planning by the Small Business Administration led to costly delays in assisting Gulf Coast small-business owners in the wake Hurricane Katrina, according to a report issued Wednesday by the General Accounting Office.

The report blames agency officials for not engaging in adequate disaster planning ahead of the storm, which slammed into the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005.

"With better planning, available evidence suggests the agency could have been better positioned to provide initial disaster assistance to hurricane victims in an organized and efficient manner," the report said.

It also criticizes the agency for not ensuring additional trained employee were available to process a surge of disaster loan applications following the storm.

The SBA has since overseen more than $2.5 billion in federal low-interest loans for over 22,000 small businesses across the region.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that more than 125,000 small and midsize businesses were damaged or destroyed by the storm.

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