WASHINGTON -- Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) today led a bipartisan group of Senators in urging the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to redirect $720 million of the $62 billion already appropriated by Congress for the hurricane recovery effort. The funding would be designated specifically for small business relief.

Since Hurricane Katrina hit, the Small Business Administration has received nearly 10,500 applications for small business loans. Fewer than 50 have been approved.

“How can the Administration claim to support small businesses without designating a dime of the $62 billion in hurricane relief funds for small businesses?” Kerry said. “Given the administration’s woeful record of delivering loans and assistance to small businesses devastated by the hurricanes, there needs to be real resources provided to ensure small companies get the grants, loans and assistance they so desperately need. It makes no sense leaving billions of dollars lying around when small business owners and the thousands they employ are struggling to make ends meet and put their lives back together.”

According to the latest weekly report from the Department of Homeland Security, $42 billion of the $62 billion appropriated for the relief efforts have not been obligated for specific needs. Of the $720 million the Senators are requesting for small businesses, $450 million would go directly to the affected states, and $270 million would go to strengthen and expand assistance provided by the Small Business Administration and its resource partners. “Redirecting $720 million from unused funds of the $62 billion for relief through the Small Business Administration would still leave sufficient amount for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Homeland Security to continue their relief efforts,” wrote the Senators.

In September, Kerry -- who is the top Democrat on the Senate Small Business Committee -- introduced an amendment to the Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill that would provide small businesses devastated by the hurricanes greater access to loans, increased contracting opportunities and much-needed technical assistance. The amendment was cosponsored by Senators Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), Barack Obama (D-Ill.), and Jon Corzine (D-N.J.). The Kerry amendment was later incorporated into a bipartisan amendment (S.A. 1717) that passed the Senate as part of the CJS appropriations bill on Sept. 15, 2005.

Today's request by Kerry was co-signed by Mary Landrieu (D-La.), David Vitter (R-La.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and John Cornyn (R-Texas).