WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Today Senator John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) urged Republican leaders to allow a vote on his small business hurricane relief package when the Senate returns this week, citing evidence that current efforts are not meeting the need of local businesses devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Kerry pointed to startling statistics that show 75 percent of hurricane-related Small Business Administration (SBA) disaster business loan applications have not even been processed, and only 7 percent of the approved business loans have been fully disbursed. In addition, as of last week, only 10 of the SBA’s new Gulf Opportunity loans, which were intended to fill the urgent need that has been created by the slow disaster loan process, had been made.

“This administration is letting red tape and politics stand in the way of getting the victims of Katrina the help they desperately need. The SBA has ignored Gulf Coast small businesses. Over the past 3 months the SBA has failed to get loan dollars into the hands of small business,” Kerry said. “This administration is turning its back on Katrina's victims, and I won't stand for it. It's time the Republican Leadership has the courage to put this good piece of legislation to a vote, so we can get these small businesses the help they need to get back on their feet."

A key provision in Kerry’s bill would allow the affected states to distribute $450 million in bridge loans to help businesses that are waiting for an SBA loan to begin rebuilding immediately. At a Committee hearing last month, SBA Administrator Hector Barreto testified that the Administration would not support that provision, and instead unveiled the SBA’s Gulf Opportunity Pilot Loan Program. Unfortunately, in the month since that program was announced, it has failed to get small businesses the loans they need, demonstrating the need for the bridge loan funding.

Republican leaders have not allowed a vote on the Small Business Hurricane Relief and Reconstruction Act, S. 1807, that Kerry, top Democrat on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, introduced with Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), chair of the Committee, Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and David Vitter (R-La.) in September.

“Congress shouldn’t leave Washington for the holidays without giving Gulf Coast small businesses the assistance they’ve been waiting on for months. Here we are more than three months after Hurricane Katrina hit and Congress still has not enacted any small business relief. It's an outrage,” Kerry said.