SMHA is uniquely positioned to help fisher families and family-owned small businesses move beyond this immediate crisis toward recovery from the impacts of COVID-19.

How You Can Help!


SMHA has re-activated our successful Rural Recovery Response to respond to communities impacted by COVID-19.

Your financial support will make a difference. (Click to Donate)

SMHA has a proven track record of success, history of recovery expertise, innovative model, “power of the story,” relationships necessary for an authentic and community-focused response and systems that support efficiency and accountability.

Historically, through our Rural Recovery Response, we effectively deployed over $11 million in capital to recover families, small businesses and communities impacted by 2005’s Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, 2008’s Hurricanes Gustav and Ike, and the 2010 BP Oil Disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and we stand ready to move affordable capital into the “gaps” that are unlikely to be served by federal or state government response.  

SMHA’s initial focus is on (a) fisher families (a sector with which we have a long history of working toward sustainability) that have difficulty accessing capital from traditional banks or government sources, and (b) small family-owned businesses (restaurants, service businesses, retail establishments), many of which employ low-wage and/or part-time workers. Our Rural Recovery Response model identifies opportunities for strategic investment that impacts multiple families/jobs with each grant/loan.

SMHA will deploy capital in the form of grants, “honor” loans (recoverable grants), or low-interest loans, as appropriate and in combination as possible.

Grants will be provided to assist with recovering from immediate impacts for which no future reimbursement is expected from other sources, such as operating capital to keep the business itself afloat until it is in position to re-employ individuals who rely on that business for their income.

“Honor” loans (recoverable grants) will be provided for impacts for which reimbursement is expected at some future date, such as paid leave for employees who are unable to work because they were directly impacted by COVID-19 or because the business is closed/operating at less than capacity due to social distancing measures. Under SMHA’s innovative “honor” loan program initiated following the BP Oil Disaster, businesses will sign a simple one-page document that states, once they receive reimbursement from other sources, they will “on their honor” repay “ 90% of the original “honor” loan plus interest.

Low-interest (3%) loans will be made to small businesses to help meet long-term recovery needs, particularly to businesses that do not qualify for emergency assistance loans from the Small Business Administration.

SMHA’s initial outreach is to rural communities in the coastal parishes of Cameron, Vermilion, Iberia, St. Mary, Terrebonne, LaFourche, lower Jefferson, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard. Based on our experience in previous recovery efforts, we know that government and large-scale philanthropic resources are deployed most quickly to urban areas. SMHA’s established model, strong community connections and capacity to “plan on the move” allow us to step quickly into the “gap” in rural areas.

SMHA relies on community intelligence to identify fisher families and small businesses that best fit SMHA’s Rural Recovery Response criteria: the need for capital (and, in the case of small businesses, the intent to use that capital to keep their employees paid and, when possible, re-employed; a “gap” between their needs and resources available from other (government) sources; a willingness for self-help/participation in their own recovery; a spirit of generosity; and  a culture of appreciation.


Our community intelligence network has been built over our years of recovery experience in rural villages across coastal Louisiana. This network includes traditional partners like other not-for-profit organizations but also includes mayors of small towns (SMHA’s CEO Hilda Curry is the former three-term Mayor of New Iberia and past president of the Louisiana Municipal Association), low-wealth families, farmers, fishers, churches and small businesses we’ve worked with over our 50 years of investing in rural Louisiana communities, and the rural (mostly women) mail carriers that were so important as SMHA’s eyes and ears in community following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike.


SMHA’s established Rural Recovery Response accountability systems support our knowing where every dollar comes from and where every dollar is invested, and our affiliate CDFI-certified lending affiliate Southern Mutual Financial Services, Inc. provides our capacity to close, fund and service loans.

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