WASHINGTON -- Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), Ranking Member of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, today announced the Senate passage of an amendment to the energy bill that will help small businesses and farmers affected by significant increases in fuel costs.

“Across the country, rising fuel costs are hammering small businesses, truckers and farmers. Skyrocketing fuels costs are a major hit on their hard-earned profits. It's pain at the pump that can literally destroy some businesses," said John Kerry. “With their budgets already tight and credit stretched thin, small-business owners and farmers need working capital to cope with this surge in fuel costs. Low-interest disaster loans can help. They are not a handout, but a smart, short-term investment for the government to make in our nation’s economy.”

Nationally, the average price of gasoline is now at $2.16, up 22 cents since last year, and the spot price of oil hit a record high of $58.90 just this week. The cost of home heating oil has risen as much as 45 percent.

The amendment (S.Admt. 825), modeled after Kerry’s Small Business and Farm Energy Emergency Relief Act of 2005 (S. 269), gives small farms and businesses hurt by the price spikes in heating oil, natural gas, propane, gasoline, and kerosene access to low-interest credit through disaster loan programs at the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Kerry's amendment has bipartisan support. Also cosponsoring the amendment are: Sens. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Herb Kohl (D-Wis.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.).