In reaction to President Bush’s remarks today about Gulf Coast recovery on the eve of the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) released the following statement:

“Today President Bush said that step one of Gulf Coast recovery – removing debris – is almost complete. One year later, just moving one step forward is really taking two steps back when so many steps remain. During my visits to the Gulf Coast, I’ve talked with small business owners about what they need to rebuild and recover. They’re disheartened at the response of the federal government. More than half of those who applied for disaster loans have been denied help from Washington and left with nowhere to turn. The majority of businesses have not yet reopened and they keep wondering how they are going to survive.

“Right after Katrina, Senator Mary Landrieu and I proposed getting grants and bridge loans out to residents immediately. We suggested working with bankers and other experts right away to get loan applications processed immediately. We sought to increase business opportunities for small local firms by establishing that they get 30 percent of federal contracts and 40 percent of subcontracting dollars. But the Bush Administration has been blocking these proposals at every turn.

“President Bush said optimism is the only option. The most successful business people in America will tell you that optimism alone doesn’t keep their doors open. Photo ops won’t get the Gulf Coast back in business. Action is the only option. There’s no excuse for continuing to delay real, bipartisan solutions.”